Managing a lactating sow’s diet has proven to be a tricky thing, as has maintaining an ideal piglet environment. The Gestal Quattro attempts to tackle both issues in one system.
The patent-pending Quattro is an automated feeding system which simultaneously manages and controls the piglets’ environmental temperature for each crate independently, and allows individualized feed blending of multiple diets in lactation.
Hyatt Frobose, Gestal U.S. territory manager and swine nutrition specialist, says the Quattro is the fifth generation of the company’s lactation feeding systems, adding new technologies and capabilities to previous generations. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “We have a system that’s wireless, a system that’s waterproof, and can withstand the dust and pressure washing in a barn environment, so we kept the base model the same.”
Frobose says the new model builds on strengths of previous models such as reducing feed waste, stimulating feed intake and helping managers find the outliers to extend the value of the manager over a greater number of sows. Being able to easily detect the outlier sows, the sows that may be missing feedings, is a big benefit of the system to Pat Thome, hog producer on the panel.
This new model introduces a dual outlet so the piglets’ heat lamp can be controlled from the feed system. When the feed motor turns on to drop feed for the sow, the heat lamp is briefly shut off. Once the feed drop is complete, the heat lamp turns back on.
Joseph Darrington, New Product Tour panelist, thinks it’s nice to be able to use the same outlet for the feeding system and the heat lamp, “putting it in series like that, I think that’s smart.” Aaron Lower, veterinarian on the panel, says the wiring “seems like it should be easy, but in a farrowing barn it can be tricky.”
Using customizable heat curves and a temperature probe to adjust piglet area temperature daily, the Quattro will reduce electricity demands while improving litter performance.
The new model also offers Wi-Fi communication capability with handheld devices to facilitate rapid transfer of farrowing information and increase sow monitoring capacity. Also, if a barn is equipped with two feed lines, the Quattro can individualize lactating sow nutrition by custom blending multiple diets at different stages of lactation.
Erik Potter, Extension swine specialist on the panel, sees the benefit of this system, but wonders if the technical aspect may be a drawback. “Depending on the sophistication of the sow farm manager or how technically competent they are, I can see some sow farm managers running away from it, while others would really get into it.”
All operations can be managed remotely, from the producer’s office or elsewhere. The Gestal Quattro is unique among lactation feeding systems as it manages other areas of a lactating sow’s surrounding environment. It is the only stand-alone, wireless lactation feed system on the market.
“I liken this to what guys on the crop side are doing with precision planting and variable rates, etc. That’s where this product comes in on the sow lactation side,” Lower says. “Anything we can do on the feed side, which is a big expense, if we’re going to capture the value that’s good. … To make that thing pay for itself, you’re really going to have to figure out the feeding. In early lactation, can I cut calories, energy, etc. — they’re not suckling much off of her — without hurting her lactation, wean weight and subsequent breeding performance?”