Once clipboards and pocket notebooks were your main means of recordkeeping. While those tools may still have a place, recordkeeping and modeling software have taken over as major decision-making aids. Among these is a software package called PigWIN.

But PigWIN is not really a single software program, rather it's a group of recordkeeping software that can be interactive or stand on its own. You choose which parts of the system apply to your operation.

"For example, if you have a farrow-to-finish system, the weaned pigs can be transferred to the growing herd and followed all the way to market," says Will Marsh, president of FarmWise Systems, the company that distributes PigWIN.

The menu system is basically the same for all facets of the program, so once you learn one part it's easy to use another part of the system. While PigWIN maintains consistency on the computer screen, it takes a wide range of measurements to serve a variety of operational needs.

"PigLITTER and PigGAIN have two very different approaches because the breeding herd program tracks individual animals, while the growing pigs' program deals with animal groups," says Marsh.

The PigWIN package requires a Windows operating system 3.1 or higher, a 486 or Pentium computer. "Any computer you buy today will have more than enough horses to run PigWIN," points out Marsh.

A color monitor and color laser printer will help you get the full effects of PigWIN and its graphic ability, which include line graphs, pie charts and bar charts. "This is helpful because it's easy to read and draws your attention to overall herd performance, while letting you compare performance of various areas to your target," says Marsh.

You don't have to use every report PigWIN offers every week, instead you should decide which areas are most important to your operation.

"There's an art to understanding what the important output measures are and which ones impact the operation most," says Marsh. "The most important thing is to be consistent in the operation and in recording the information."
Let's take a look at what the package offers.

PigLITTER is based on 20 years of experience developing and using breeding herd production records, according to Marsh.

You may enter data into PigLITTER by conventional methods, a spreadsheet or electronic interface via a Palm Pilot personal data assistant. The spreadsheet input screen is identical to the action lists that you can print and use in the barns.

Bells of PigLITTER
PigLITTER is the breeding herd management module. It allows you to:

  • Generate action lists that help schedule critical management activities.
  • Monitor and analyze vital areas of your breeding herd.
  • Access the information you need, in the format you want it.
  • Communicate with and motivate your personnel to observe key management details by graphing performance.
  • Detect and diagnose emerging problems before they cause serious financial loss.

PigLITTER uses extensive color graphics, which help you interpret and discuss the data. Another plus is the program uses terminology consistent with the National Pork Producers Council's Production and Financial Standards. For example the program refers to breeding females, rather than sows. Another side of that coin is the integration with financial records, so the same terminology used in the production record system is carried all the way through to the financial records.

PigGAIN uses growth curves to monitor the performance of your current grower pigs against industry standards and historical data from your own operation.

"PigGAIN is a completely new approach to growing pig records," says Marsh. "It starts with packer matrix, growth curves and feed budgets and monitors the pigs' growth rate and variability. Then it tells you when is the most profitable time to sell pigs from each group. So, it's a marketing management tool as well as a production monitoring system."

Whistles of PigGAIN
The nursery and finisher pig monitoring and marketing software is PigGAIN, which allows you to:

  • Define optimal marketing weights based on current hog prices and feed costs.
  • Identify optimal marketing strategies.
  • Project hog marketing schedules and feed requirements.
  • Monitor hogs for deviations from projected and/or historic performance.
  • Compare performance levels among pig groups or across time periods.
  • Adjust key indices to allow "what-if" scenarios.

Using all this data, the program determines when it would cost more to keep and feed a pig for one more day vs. its increase in value if sold at market. This is the marketing strategy that will yield the greatest profit. Various packer premiums and penalties are figured into this equation. After you use the software for a few months and develop your own database, PigGAIN will have the capacity to tailor growth curves based on the growth performance of your own pigs. Over time, you will build up your own set of standard curves that consider factors such as age at market, sex, seasonality of placement and genetics.

"The program learns as it goes along," says Marsh. "You can match future groups to your standards, rather than the original standard."
It shows the margin over feed cost and other results in graphical format.

Of course, it's great to be able to break your operation down into specific categories, but it's also important to be able to take a look at the total package.

PigHERD brings the big picture into focus, by combining data from PigLITTER and PigGAIN. This comes in particularly handy for farrow-to-finish producers who want to get a better handle on costs and profits.

PigHERD Brings it Together
PigHERD is the custom report generator allowing you to combine breeding and growing herd production data analysis. PigHERD gives you the ability to:

  • Export data elements to link with financial management information systems.
  • Design, generate and print custom reports.
  • Assess overall herd performance using formulas and definitions consistent with international standards.
  • Extract breeding and growing herd data variables for external analysis.

You can have remote data entry into all parts of PigWIN with PigPAD, a data-entry program that works with a 3COM PalmPilot, personal hand-held organizer.

Paul VanDeWalle, a farrow-to-wean producer from St. Mary's, Ontario, says the PalmPilot interaction was what first drew him to the software, and he still considers this convenience one of PigWIN's greatest assets.

This can be convenient but is not required to run the other programs, so if you don't have a PalmPilot, that's okay.

PigPAD as Data Entry Vehicle
PigPAD is the electronic data entry arm of PigWIN. The optional program runs on a PalmPilot hand-held organizer and allows you to:

  • Download active records to carry with you around the farm.
  • View histories of active sows, boars and groups of growing pigs.
  • Edit records and enter new data while standing next to the animals.
  • Transfer latest information to the PC on return to your office.
  • Use multiple PigPAD Pilots around the farm and synchronize data from your gilt pool and breeding, gestating, farrowing, nursery and finisher barns to one main PC.
  • PalmPilot also functions as a calculator, notebook, directory and calendar.

If you would like to know more, FarmWise is the exclusive distributor in the United States and Eastern Canada. You may order a CD-ROM by calling FarmWise at (877) 4PIGWIN. You may also download a demo version of PigLITTER only at the Web site at www.pigwin.com. Once installed, you will then have a 30-day trial period.

To purchase the software go to the "license screen" and run a license application, which you then return with a payment. You will receive an authorization code, which activates the program for your herd size for the next 12 months.

The price tag depends upon how many pigs you have. For PigLITTER, prices range from as little as $250 a year for one to 250 breeding females up to $2,000 a year for 9,001 to 10,000 breeding females. PigGAIN models range from $250 a year for one to 2,500 growing pigs in inventory up to $3,000 a year for 90,001 to 100,000 growing pigs.

For farrow-to-finish producers with 1,000 or more breeding females the cost is generally between 2 cents and 4 cents per pig marketed annually.

"Every individual is different, but in my case good records are a good indicator of what's going on in the barn," says VanDeWalle. "I've always felt PigWIN gives me current and accurate records. It's very thorough and I like the whole system."

PigWIN, like any other program, may not be for everyone. But it may provide some of you with more accurate information.