As feed costs continue to climb, pork producers are redoubling efforts to maximize pig growth and efficiency. In some cases, that means updating or reconfiguring grow-finish facilities to match breed-to-wean pig flows, while older, ill-matched facilities are being razed and replaced.

The question remains: “What does the ideal, 21st-century finishing barn look like?” That was the challenge placed before a team of a dozen pork industry professionals as part of a National Pork Board project.

“Ideally, swine buildings should be designed and built as an integrated system, not as separate components,” states Larry Jacobson, Extension agricultural engineer at the University of Minnesota, principle investigator of the project and chair of the advisory group.

“An integrated design should focus on providing the optimum conditions for maximum pig production efficiency while reducing energy and emissions and addressing worker health and safety and pig welfare issues. The building efficiencies should be integrated into the building design rather than by add-on technologies,” he states.

For the last three decades, many if not most swine confinement buildings were assembled by suppliers of the various components of the structure — ventilation, manure collection and storage, feed storage and delivery. Relatively inexpensive feed and fossil fuels, as well as limited concerns about emissions, led to popular barn designs such as tunnel-ventilated, deep-pit barns that typically increase energy use and air emissions, Jacobson points out.