As our customer expectations continue to evolve, we must ensure we put practices in place to meet them. Our customers want more verification and transparency into our operations as a result of increased consumer pressure, and using remote video monitoring and auditing is one way to provide that.
One of the shortfalls of traditional on-farm audits is that auditors are limited in their ability to frequently observe critical animal care practices. For example, weaned-pig movement might occur on a different day than the scheduled on-farm audit. In an attempt to increase our observational sample, and to take a proactive approach to ensuring our expectations are fulfilled, we initiated a pilot project recently to conduct video monitoring and auditing in a few of our sow farms.
Getting into Specifics
We are exploring the usefulness of video as a tool to ensure proper animal care practices. The first step toward using video monitoring is to identify critical practices that need to be observed. For our pilot, we’ve primarily focused on processes related to animal handling and movement, euthanasia management, adherence to our willful acts of abuse policy, and the expectations outlined in our animal care stakeholder commitment statement and common swine industry audit.
Our monitoring approach combines regular external evaluation through a third-party vendor with our own internal animal care review to verify proper farm operating procedures. In addition, this method adds credibility to the monitoring process for our customers and helps us identify training and development opportunities early on within our system.
What We’ve Found
By and large, the feedback on this project from farm managers has been positive. Farms are using the feedback and reviewing with their teams on a routine basis. Analysis of the video monitoring has proven to be a valuable tool for providing positive feedback, coaching, training and accountability. Our animal care team also reviews the video to highlight any potential improvement opportunities and identify any system-wide improvements or lessons learned.
Reviewing reports also has been helpful in supporting the training of new employees, as well as providing feedback to seasoned employees. Site managers can’t be everywhere at once, so the monitoring reports show them where their strengths lie and also identify where they need to spend more time coaching and training.
“What I see is that it gives me peace of mind because I can’t see everything, everywhere, all the time,” says Mike Harris, farm manager for The Maschhoffs. “When something is spotted, it gets highlighted and sent to the farm in a report. From there, I review/retrain anything that is highlighted with my team. Overall it helps us learn and get better at taking care of our animals. However, the mentality that the video monitoring is a positive approach has to start with the farm manager. If we look at it as an opportunity to coach and train as opposed to finding fault with our employees, we are going to be much more successful in this project.”
Video monitoring has provided us with another way to demonstrate, verify and improve our animal care practices. The value from this tool is demonstrated in the ability for a coach/manager to be in many places at once by watching recorded activities of a team member and following up with helpful instruction, encouragement and assurances. It’s like providing coaches with game film so they can provide the appropriate coaching and training to help their team win.