Remove dead sows safely

New Product Tour most promising finalists: Hercules' Arm

Kevin.Schulz, senior content specialist

June 27, 2017

3 Min Read
Remove dead sows safely
National Hog Farmer/Kevin Schulz

Hog producers never want to have to remove mortalities from their barns, but it is inevitable that losses will occur. Removal of mortalities can be difficult, and even dangerous, for barn employees, especially if the dead animal is a market-weight hog or a multi-parity sow.

Ro-Main’s redesigned Hercules’ Arm, with a new, low-maintenance dual motor providing variable speed, allows a single producer or barn hand to easily remove even the largest sows effortlessly and safely from the barn.

Seeing is believing
Gary Desmarais, in national and international business development with Ro-Main, pointed to a video playing in the company’s booth during World Pork Expo. In the video, a petite woman easily removes a large deceased sow from a farrowing stall. 

The 20-inch width and 42-inch length of the Hercules’ Arm allows ease of movement in what can be tight quarters in a farrowing room. The ¼-inch, stainless-steel winch cable and 5,500-pound winch, with vertical mast that can extend from 74 inches to a maximum height of 98 inches, allows the removal of an 800-pound sow with ease. In addition to being able to extend the boom length, it also tilts to optimize its operation for improved stability while moving a dead animal. The mast can also pivot 180 degrees for a safer straight-line removal of the animal. There is an articulated model for the tightest corners. In addition to variable speeds, the Hercules can maneuver forward and in reverse. The operator has complete control of the unit perched on a platform at the rear with the twist-grip throttle, winch control button and emergency stop button all within reach.

Other features include:
■ Hearse motor: 24 volts
■ two rechargeable gel batteries (12 volts)
■ built-in battery charger: 24 volts
■ safety arm
■ built-in motor brake
■ silicone-filled, flat-proof tires

Desmarais said the first model was built in 2003, and many producers have come to their booth saying that their 10-plus-year-old Hercules’ arm is still running great and has saved many back injuries. The company is always listening to customer-farmers for ways to improve the product.

New Product Tour panelists wondered how well the Hercules’ Arm would work in a group housing pen, when there are a large number of sows present. Desmarais said the operator is key to introducing this foreign piece of equipment into the group pen environment, and “a big plus for the Hercules is that it is a quiet-moving piece of equipment.” Ro-Main also offers the Porky’s Pick-Up XL, which allows for sow removal without ever having to touch the carcass.

Pat Thome, the hog producer on the New Product Tour, likes the safety factor offered. “This is great for worker safety; that type of tool is a must-have on a sow farm.”

Aaron Lower, New Product Tour veterinarian, put this product in logistical context. “On a sow farm if you have to remove a dead sow, it will take two people a half hour, so this would cut it down to one person and do it more quickly. And then you have the safety and strain factor … if you have to move four dead sows in a day.”

Desmarais also addressed panelists’ concerns about operation on uneven surfaces. Both wheels can be locked, allowing both wheels to work in unison. “When the Hercules’ Arm arrived at the booth, it was on a wooden pallet, and I had no problem getting it down from there,” he said. “If the lip is too high, then maybe a small ramp is in order for safety.”

Tour judge Erik Potter, an Iowa State University Extension swine specialist who has worked with the Common Swine Industry Audit, said a component in the CSIA says mortality removals are a big issue. “They want it done daily and timely,” he said, and the Hercules’ Arm would allow that.

For more information, contact Rejean Bouchard at 418-803-8037 or visit

About the Author(s)


senior content specialist, National Hog Farmer

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