Field Technician helps keep "eyes and ears" on pigs with well-kept alarm systems

posted on Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Barn comfort, ventilation and access to quality feed and fresh water are essential to the health and care of our pigs, and critical to our billion pound journey. While pigs are cared for every day, there is a risk that something could happen at the barn while the caretaker is away, especially with Iowa’s four robust seasons and extreme weather events.

To keep a set of “eyes and ears” on the animals at all times, each farm is equipped with an alarm, many of which are referred to as Sentinel alarms. Alarms can be triggered to go off by a power outage, a sensor reporting too much or too little heat or a lack of air flow in the barns. When an alarm is triggered, an alert system is automatically deployed, sending an email, text and phone call to the barn manager and then the supervisor, rolling to upwards of nine people to ensure someone is able to get to the site quickly to resolve the issue. “The alarms are the last line of defense to protect our people, protect our pigs and protect the barns,” said Carland, one of two field technicians responsible for maintaining and troubleshooting the alarm system.

For nearly 15 years Carland has been at the other end of the phone—oftentimes in the middle of the night—when a farm manager or supervisor calls to report an issue with the alarm system itself or a number of sensors that rapidly flow information. “Every day the challenge is different, which I really enjoy about the job. We’re always on the run,” he laughs.

Carland is responsible for all of the farms east of I-35, and travels from site to site ensuring all of the temperature probes are calibrated, the network of wiring is working and the alarm system itself is operating as it should.

“Something that is important to me is preventing ‘phantom’ alarms,” said Carland. “I really hate to see a manager get up in the middle of the night and drive to his or her site and nothing is wrong, which is why the preventative maintenance aspect is a big focus of mine.”

Iowa Select Farms is working closely with the Sentinel engineers to make improvements, explains Carland. “The technology will continue to expand, and as we tweak the system and make changes it will continue to offer more value to our managers and better protection for our animals and farms.”

“Any manager or supervisor will tell you our alarm techs are a critical part of our team, and Carland does a fantastic job of taking the time to educate and train us on how to operate the systems," said Hebert, manager of Sow 114, the farm where we caught up with Carland just this morning. “I am a new farm manager, and Carland has been here a lot, especially with the recent storm. It’s awesome what he does to keep the animals safe.” ‪#‎billionpounds‬