The Big Dutchman DryExact Pro is a computer-controlled, chain-disk feeding system that gives producers the ability to deliver a different diet to each feeder. The system uses a batch mixer to blend and deliver individual feed recipes and allows for easy, multi-phase feeding. A two-loop system can feed different diets simultaneously, allowing for quick distribution of feed with one batch mixer.

New software, called BigFarmNet, allows all controllers, computers and sensors on the farm to be linked for data sharing and analysis, explained Hans Ulrich, Big Dutchman technical sales director. “BigFarmNet allows for convenient communication with other Big Dutchman farm computers, iPads and smart phones to enable 24-hour monitoring and alarm features, as well as keeping track of animal performance data to help evaluate total efficiency and farm profits,” he said.

In operation, several batches of feed are traveling in the line, with empty spaces between batches, Ulrich explains. He explained that the DryExact Pro system could mix and dispense rations as small as 18 oz. The system has the capability to prepare individual diets for each animal or group of animals at each feeding. Sensors can be installed inside feeders to monitor and control feed consumption.

Ulrich explained that before each feeding cycle, the computer checks all feeders to see which ones still have feed left from the last feeding. These feeders will not be refilled. The computer is also able to record the feed intake time at each feeder and automatically adjust feed quantity delivered to the feeders, which means diets are adjusted according to changes in appetite. “You may even set the computer to send an alarm to your phone or iPhone if feed consumption falls below a certain level,” he said.

Ulrich said when feeding starts, the weighed mixer is filled with ingredients — up to 32 different ingredients are possible. The finished feed mixture drops into a hopper with a funnel. If the system has two circuits, the mixture is released into one-half of the divided distribution unit, from which it is dropped into one of two circuit hoppers. The chain disk feeding system then transports the mix to the respective feed valve while the next recipe is being prepared. A sensor inside the feed hopper verifies that the hopper is empty to prevent an intermixing of individual feed recipes. The process steps are repeated until all valves have been supplied with feed.

Users can choose between two computer versions. The MC 700 computer is paired with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and the MC717 computer has a built-in, touch-screen monitor. The Windows-based computer program can be used in different languages, so if there are Spanish-speaking employees, for example, the system can be displayed in both English and Spanish.

The panel asked about how the system would work under a variety of circumstances. Ted Funk asked what would happen if there was a feed bridging problem.

Ulrich said the feed would stop and an alarm would notify the producer. “Alarms show up on the computer, explaining exactly what is triggering the alarm, such as a power failure, out-of-feed event, etc.,” he explained.

“There are soft alarms and hard alarms. With a soft alarm, the system tells the operator what the problem is, but the system doesn’t stop. However, if there is a more serious problem, there would be a hard alarm and the system would stop. The system notifies the operator which valve may be having problems or needs to be checked. At the end of the line, we have a security or safety valve. That means if for some reason a feed valve did not open, the respective feed batch would travel to the safety valve at the end of the line, which would remove the batch from the feed line. This way it is ensured that no feed batch will end up at a wrong feed valve,” he added.

Funk asked if there was a certain type or size of operation that would benefit most from this system. In the United States, the main customers are research farms and larger producers, Ulrich answered.

Addressing the question of cost, Ulrich said the standard Big Dutchman DryExact Pro system accommodates around 4,000 pigs for a ballpark price of $60,000, depending upon the layout of the barn, number of feed valves required and number of barns. The price includes the equipment for a complete DryExact Pro feeding system, except for the office PC, freight and installation. Feeders, feed bins or supply augers are not included.

During the discussion phase, Marcia Shannon noted that the Big Dutchman feeder isn’t for everybody, but would contribute to more precise phase feeding or split-sex feeding for larger producers.

“The system offers a tremendous amount of flexibility, and I liked the idea of alternating feed batches so the mixer is always busy,” Paul Yeske said. “I could see it being a good fit in a research barn. You would need to be very into computers to make the most of it. I do like the system; I like the idea of being able to feed blended rations and get the blend right. If you had an owner-operator who was into electronics, you could probably save a lot of money formulating every week and getting formulations right. It wouldn’t be the right system for someone who has a hard time with even getting into the barn to do basic tasks, though.”

Leon Sheets said to a certain extent, the success and management of the system would depend on the skill level of the people working in the barn.

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