Talking TSi System Helps Blind Farmer Get Pig Weights Perfect
Despite his impaired vision, Wayne Barker hasn't lost sight of what's important when it comes to achieving efficient animal management and quality results on his Southland pig farm. He's adapted the TSi to announce each pig's weight out loud. His investment has made a huge difference to the accuracy and efficiency of his pig drafting and his ability to work independently on the farm.
Wayne Barker: Getting good feedback from processors about the improved accuracy of his animals' weights after switching to the TSi.
Pig farming is tough enough at the best of times but imagine how hard it would be if you were totally blind.
Southland farmer Wayne Barker lost his eyesight and his left arm in 1971 after an accident handling detonators. “I was actually pretty lucky,” says Wayne. “I should have been killed.”
Up until the accident, Wayne was helping run the family sheep farm at Mokotua, about 25km south east of Invercargill. He was 19 years old when the accident happened, but he hasn’t let it ruin his life.
“There is always someone worse off than you.”
After a stint of rehabilitation in Auckland, Wayne returned to the family farm determined to continue farming. “This place has been in the family for seven generations and there was no way I was going to leave it.”
Taking on a new goal
Wayne knew he couldn’t continue sheep and beef farming but he did feel that he could manage pigs. In 1972 the family built the piggery that Wayne has run (mostly on his own) for almost 40 years.
Wayne’s ‘Southpork’ piggery finishes around 1000 pigs a year for a Christchurch-based processor. These pigs are sourced as weaners and fed on barley grain until they reach 90-105kg liveweight, with most finished before they reach 16 weeks of age.
Wayne runs about 350 pigs at a time, drafting and dispatching killable pigs every 14 days.
The piggery has a concrete floor and steel-railed pens which each hold around 12 pigs. Wayne knows his way around the piggery by heart and has few problems handling the young pigs.
Barley is either fed by hand or using an auger system and Wayne moves around the pens using the pipe rails as his guide. Though he gets the odd pig bite, he says weaners are much easier and safer to handle than sows.
He still gets out on the farm but sticks mainly to the paddocks surrounding the piggery. He has a mental image of the farm’s tracks and fences in his mind and uses wind direction and the smell of the piggery to work out where he is. Wayne uses a cane and for the past 20 years he has had the invaluable help of a guide dog.
Technology makes life easier
New technology has also helped Wayne access a range of equipment which previously were a challenge. Wayne’s cellphone, for example, now has a screen reader that will read information to him.
With the help of his local Gallagher Territory Manager, Lindsay Whyte, Wayne installed a new TSi system in the piggery. It's made a huge difference to the accuracy and efficiency of his pig drafting.
The TSi has also been adapted so that pig weights are announced by a computerised voice via a loudspeaker.
Wayne then uses a three-way drafting system to draft the pigs according to weight.
“Before I had the TSi, I used a 'clockface' weighing system. The clockface had bolts in it so that I could feel what the weights were, but it was never very accurate."
“The TSi system is very easy for me to use and it only takes two seconds to weigh the pig and announce the weight. Even if the pig is bouncing around on the scales, it still gives an accurate reading.”
Wayne pushes the pigs down the race in groups of 12. Any pig that is 90kg or over is drafted ready for transport to the processor.
Fast, accurate and labour-saving
Wayne says it only takes about a minute to weigh and draft each pig and that's much faster than his previous system managed.
The ability to get precise weights, without having to employ someone else to help, makes the operation more cost-efficient because he's not carrying pigs for longer than he has to.
“It’s taken all the guesswork out of it. Now I can be just as accurate as a sighted farmer.”
While the TSi has a whole range of features Wayne will never be able to use, he says its precision and ease of operation make it well worth the investment.
He has also had good feedback from his processor about the improved accuracy of his weights.
“On rare occasions they will ring me up and tell me they’ve got a pig that is 10-15kg underweight, but that just means one has snuck past me in the drafting race.”