Changes in Energy Use Can Lead to Savings for Swine Producers

Extension publication benchmarks energy use in similar facilities to help porducers determine acceptable outputs

AMES, Iowa – Two extremely important questions for swine producers to understand are knowing how much energy is being used and how much should be used in their facilities. By benchmarking their anticipated energy use, producers are able to compare their use with other similar facilities and determine if their energy expenditures are reasonable.

A new publication from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Farm Energy series titled "Benchmarking energy usage for swine producers" (PM 3063e) helps facility managers determine the approximate level of energy that should be used to both heat swine in the winter and keep them cool in warmer months.

“It is difficult for producers to know if they have been using excess energy in their swine facilities if they don’t have a benchmark with which to compare,” said Jay Harmon, professor and extension livestock housing specialist in agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University. “While annual usage may vary with pig size or the severity of weather, comparing to some sort of standard helps determine if producers should investigate changes in their energy usage further.”

Data was gathered from thirty production facilities in Iowa and Minnesota, with finishing swine, wean-finish and sow farms examined. The findings for finishing and wean-finish swine were also divided between facilities that used curtain barns and those who employed tunnel barns.

Using their findings, Harmon and Dana Schweitzer, program coordinator with the Iowa State University Farm Energy Conservation and Efficiency Initiative, were able to determine ranges for annual electrical and propane usage.

After comparing the ranges of suggested energy use, producers can determine if their outputs are higher or lower than similar facilities. If energy usage is higher than it should be, there are several ways to create possible savings.

Propane is primarily used for building heat and the biggest source of excess energy consumption tends to be over-ventilation or improper controller settings. Something as simple as adjusting the controller setting can lead to savings. Sub-metering equipment or observing run cycles can also help spot a ventilation problem.

Energy consumption can be minimized with proper management, leading directly to an increase in profit. Being aware of costs and comparing them to the benchmarking numbers in the publication can help producers develop a plan to increase their savings.