Pat Thome, Adams, MN, carries his smartphone with him all day, every day, in his farrow-to-finish operation. “I use my phone to monitor email and the Internet. It has been especially handy for checking the hog markets in real time and has helped us book hogs with our broker,” he says. “Some opportunities only present themselves for minutes. Having the ability to log into our broker’s Web site to monitor markets is very important.”

Thome recently delivered hogs to a packer that were actually booked via his smartphone while he was combining corn last October.

The smartphone is a handy communication tool when it comes to relaying information to veterinarians, as well. Thome and his employees take pictures of sick pigs and send them to their veterinarian via a text message or email to get an idea of what illness they may be dealing with.

The smartphone is also useful when monitoring hog delivery to the packing plant. “If a hog is rejected when it goes to harvest, we request that a picture be taken at the plant and emailed to us. That way, if we have another load going that day, we can make sure we don’t run into a similar problem. We can discuss the situation with the trucker and employees at the barn,” he says.

Communication with employees works well with smartphone technology, too. Thome texts employees before they come to work to provide updates on what has been going on in the barn and instructions for the day. “It’s faster and easier to text on a smartphone,” he says.

Thome’s smartphone is especially crucial when it comes to emergency preparedness. “Our barns are all alarm-monitored. If an alarm sounds, I receive a text message and phone call at my cell phone.”

Thome farms with his father, Gary, and brother, Matt. They raise crops in addition to pigs. Therefore, weather forecasts and weather radar apps are helpful with crops as well as picking the best time to move pigs.

“Now that we know how porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) moves, we check the forecast before moving pigs and don’t move pigs on days that would be conducive to having the PRRS virus move through the air, putting our pigs at risk of infection.”

Thome’s tips to other producers who might be shopping for a smartphone are to look for durability in the phone they choose. “When you are researching for providers, look for signal strength, too. If you are using email or the Internet, it can be frustrating if you can’t receive a signal in the places you need to be.” Screen size is also important, especially when trying to read emails.

Thome uses a Casio G’z One Commando model smartphone with Android apps. He did his homework to make sure the phone would be rugged and could stand up to the challenging and often dusty, dirty and wet conditions in barns and outdoors. All openings and ports are covered, which helps prevent dust from getting into the phone. Two family members who are involved in the operation carry a smartphone, and a third will be changing as soon as his phone contract allows. All of the Thome barns have cell phone and Wi-Fi connectivity.