Ventilation called key to successful hog barn

Pigs can be hit by conditions that are both below and above ideal if the temperature range is too wide; variable-speed fans are one solution

Cool pigs are cool with the barn.

Cold and chilled pigs are on the road to sickness, and then they may perform poorly, dragging down a hog farm’s performance.

“If you get pigs too cold or chilled, you’re going to get sick pigs,” said Justin Lowe of Chore Time, in a session at the June 6 Global Hog Industry Virtual Conference.

“If you’re able to keep things consistent you’re able to keep performance up.”

Lowe said ventilation is an area of hog barn management that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. Producers understand well that a barn that’s too cold or too hot will cause pigs to do poorly, but the impact of temperature swings is less well understood.

Hogs perform best when their environment is controlled and not volatile. Most farmers think they are providing that when they provide a ventilation system that switches on and off to keep temperatures within a range, but if the range is too big or the blowing too strong pigs will suffer.

If in-barn breezes are too strong, pigs can experience wind chill. If the temperature range is too wide, pigs can be hit by conditions that are both below and above ideal, which will affect their growth.

Farmers should focus on “keeping that building in a nice, tight range.”

That can be done with variable-speed fans and systems that don’t switch on all fans at once.

Paying attention to ventilation can also bring returns from more efficient energy use. Dust-filled fans and shutters can work far below optimal, drawing much more power than necessary. That’s bad both for the bottom line and business planning.

“You should have a guaranteed cost,” said Lowe.

There’s no system that fits all barn situations. Systems can be optimized for the current size of a barn, or to allow for expansion, or for highest efficiency.

Lowe said the most economical system might not always be the most efficient system because many factors can interact, such as the cost of the system and the cost of operation.

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