Pull the Plug Out of Rising Energy Costs

Simple practices can help pork producers reduce fuel, gas, propane costs without adversely affecting production.

Published on: Sep 15, 2005

Simple practices can help pork producers reduce fuel, gas, propane costs without adversely affecting production. Dr. Jay Harmon of Iowa State University and Dr. Mark Boggess of the Pork Checkoff have put together a list of things producers can do to save money in the face of rising energy costs.

First, producers should understand that most of the heat loss from a livestock building occurs through ventilation. "Producers should resist the temptation to under-ventilate their buildings to save energy," says Harmon. "Fine tuning the ventilation system is a more appropriate approach."

Second, keep a maintenance schedule on all environmental and ventilation equipment to ensure things operate at peak efficiency. "Make sure all fans and inlets are cleaned regularly and are well maintained," says Boggess. Dirty fans or those with damaged shutters are less efficient. "Heaters should also be cleaned and serviced regularly to run efficiently."

Third, check your curtains. "Make sure curtains are tight and overlap completely when closed. Make sure all holes are patched, says Harmon. "Consider upgrading to insulated curtains, particularly in wean-to-finish buildings."

Fourth, understand your ventilation controllers. "Spend time observing fans and heaters coming on and off in your building," says Boggess. Most controllers will not let second stage fans and heaters run at the same time but may cycle when they should not, wasting heat. "Pay close attention to the heater setting; especially when heaters are too large for a room or with older controllers that are not set properly," he says.

Fifth, learn to determine the appropriate set points for environmental controllers. "Pigs should be comfortable to slightly cool," says Harmon. Set points will vary in different buildings. Nurseries are usually heated in excess. "Nurseries with 3-4 week old piglets can be set as low as 80 degrees after the pigs have adjusted for a day or two post weaning and are eating aggressively," he says. Finishing pigs can tolerate temperatures as low as 58 degrees in slatted-floor buildings as they approach market weight.

Sixth, evaluate other costly energy drainers. "Consider reducing the number of trips to town for supplies. Try to have full loads of feed delivered and market full loads of pigs," says Harmon.

Seventh, identify and recycle your valuable byproducts. "Re-evaluate the nutrient value of your manure; particularly for nitrogen content," says Boggess. "You can reduce fertilizer needs by knowing the nutrient composition of the manure and utilizing it as efficiently as possible."

Combined, these ideas may decrease your energy costs significantly during this time of high prices, Harmon and Boggess says. Other ideas for conserving energy can be found on the Iowa State University Web site at www.abe.iastate.edu/livestock/aen138.asp.