Iowa State University (ISU) and the National Pork Board have teamed up to offer producers seven simple steps to reducing energy costs.

  1. Realize that most of the heat loss from a hog barn is through ventilation. “Producers should resist the temptation to under-ventilate their buildings to save energy,” explains Jay Harmon, ISU agricultural engineer. “Fine-tuning the ventilation system is a more appropriate approach.”
  2. Keep a maintenance schedule on all ventilation-related equipment to ensure its operation at peak efficiency. “Make sure all fans and inlets are cleaned regularly and are well maintained,” says Mark Boggess, director of Animal Science at the Pork Board.
  3. Check building 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.”
  4. Understand how ventilation controllers work. “Spend time observing fans and heaters coming on and off in your building,” reminds 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 with older controllers that are not set properly,” he adds.
  5. Learn the appropriate set points for environmental controllers. “Pigs should be comfortable to slightly cool,” notes Harmon. Set points will vary in different buildings. Nurseries are usually heated in excess. “Nurseries with 3- to 4-week-old piglets can be set as low as 80 degrees after the pigs have adjusted for a day or two postweaning and are eating aggressively,” he says. Finishing pigs can tolerate temperatures as low as 58 degrees in slotted-floor buildings as they approach market weight.
  6. Review other costly energy wasters. “Consider reducing the number of trips to town for supplies. Try to have full loads of feed delivered and market full loads of pigs,” advises Harmon.
  7. Identify and recycle valuable by-products. “Reevaluate the nutrient value of your manure, particularly for nitrogen content,” suggests Boggess. “You can reduce fertilizer needs by knowing the nutrient composition of the manure and utilizing it as efficiently as possible.”

Together, these seven ideas could greatly reduce the amount of energy used, Harmon and Boggess agree. More energy-saving tips can be found on the ISU Web site, www.abe.iastate.edu/livestock/aen138.asp.