Easy for the People Easy for the Pigs #4

Nov 25, 2021

Maximus ESF – Built For . . . Utilizing Valuable Labor!

I have been quoted as saying,

“When group housing is too simple the sow is compromised but when it is too complex the people can become compromised. The result either way is that production suffers. No system is perfect, but I believe a balance of what’s best for both people and pigs is achievable”.

In the last of this series of short articles, I will highlight the key features of the Maximus Free Access ESF that I believe quantifies that statement.


Labor will always be one of the keys to a successful pig farm. As an industry we should without doubt continue to explore technologies. Some will be embraced and be proven to be a success, others will not. However, as we move more towards a world that may soon be dominated by Artificial Intelligence and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, we should not forget PEOPLE and the daily role they play in caring for the animals and managing the farm.
If we know labor is an issue, it becomes imperative that when our employees are in the barn, they can utilize their time wisely. How do we avoid those days when we feel like all we do is “put out fires? In the earlier 3 articles in this series, we looked at various areas of the Maximus ESF system that I believe helps to create a balance of simplicity and technology that in turn benefit both the people and the pigs. In terms of ‘focusing on the right things’, the importance of equipment that requires minimal maintenance, and is simple in design for easy learning, should not be overlooked.
When we buy a new vehicle, we never see anything for sale that’s rusty! In fact, it’s not until a few years later that the holes appear, the paint flakes off and we shake our head and mutter to ourselves, “That was a mistake!”
As producers invest more in group housing solutions, some of the ESF equipment that has been out on farms for 5 or more years, is beginning to tell a similar story. The anomia, feces, and acidic environment of most North American pig farms is vastly different to that of our Europeans friends, which is where the majority of the ESF feeding equipment originated from.
In the past few years, I have seen with my own eyes, doors, side panels, feed bowls and many other components of feeding stations, that have rusted, stopped working or simply fell apart, most only 5-7 years after installation. Add to this the increased technology of separation, air compressors, sensors, incorporated weigh scales etc. the list of, ‘things that can go wrong’, continues to grow. All of this can add to the time and labor to manage the system and, as a result, takes PEOPLE away from raising PIGS! It is important that you invest in a system that will hold up to the test of time. Technology will play a big part in Agriculture in the future.
It is important that we create a balance between technology and the manufacturing of equipment in such a way that it simple, reliable, and durable to withstand the environment of the pig farm, yet adaptable to the ever changing, data driven, world in which we run our daily operations!

Here are a few features of the Maximus Free Access ESF worth mentioning

1. Plastic

Maximus uses vented green plastic panels in the main body of the ESF station. This gives the sow a safe environment to feed in, unlike some designs where the sow can be interfered with by more dominant sows waiting to feed. It terms of hygiene; it cleans up great! At Maximus we also offer this product as an option for the sleeping area and fence line of the group pens. It gives the sows great protection when resting.

2. Steel

The metal frame used on the feeder is a high quality, hot dipped galvanized. This process has strict quality control to ensure an even coating, at the desire thickness and will create a chemical reaction between the steel and zinc and helps to ensure a strong layer of protection. The front of the feeder is made from stainless steel. Double welding is done in this area which gets the most sow contact over many years.

3. Electronics

MAXIMUS is confident that we have the best quality electronics in the industry. We do tests on all our electronics to an extremely high voltage, prior to shipping, which makes it much easier to relax at night during a severe thunderstorm. Electronics do a lot of heavy-duty work in most all pig farms, so it is important that they can handle the harsh environment.

4. Simple in design

The Maximus Free Access ESF is simple and designed with both the pig and people in mind. The less moving parts, the lower the maintenance, the happier your people (and your wallet) will be! The fully mechanical design reduces the need for sensors, air compressors and additional wiring.

5. Smart technology on individually fed sows

I’ve always said, “These machines all feed a pig!” I am also now convinced you need to prove it! “Has the pig been fed?” Maximus now has revolutionary SMART technology that does exactly that. From the feed bin to the new “bobble head” dispenser on the 3P bottle, Maximus tracks the feed delivery to the sow and can prove it!


After 30+ years of being around ESF I am convinced a balance of what’s Easy for the Pig and Easy for the People can be achieved. As producers look for options to comply with standards for Proposition 12, I would be the first to caution, group housing with ESF has its challenges. Many failures are evident, and stories are well told around the industry. There are however some well document successes that are testament to the fact that it can be a viable option.
I will finish by saying “ESF doesn’t operate by itself”. Owners and employees must believe in it and manage it. Veterinarians must understand the system and Companies that sell the equipment must support it. Working together is paramount for success.

About the author

Robert Drew

Robert Drew has well over 3 decades of experience that he brings with him to MAXIMUM AG in both Outdoor and Indoor sow producti on on a large scale.
Along with establishing on-farm Quality Management Programs and Independent Consulti ng roles, Drew’s knowledge on group housing is a great additi on for MAXIMUM AG and its customers. His fi rst exposure to ESF technology was more than 30 years ago in the UK.
More recently he has worked with many of the other group feeding systems in the US as the industry started to adapt to the European way of thinking.

I believe that MAXIMUS can provide a foundation for true animal care through precision monitoring of all the critical areas of the production system.