Reducing pig farm energy costs

A number of pig equipment companies and consultants are working hard to help global pig producers fight against the rising costs of energy, which accounts for a large proportion of the input costs on most pig units.

Hugh Crabtree, managing director of Farmex “Pig producers can cut energy bills by paying more attention to details.”
Hugh Crabtree, managing director of Farmex “Pig producers can cut energy bills by paying more attention to details.”

A number of pig equipment companies and consultants are working hard to help global pig producers fight against the rising costs of energy, which accounts for a large proportion of the input costs on most pig units.

“Pig farmers generally tend to waste a lot of energy, especially in the farrowing rooms and in the nursery units,” says Hugh Crabtree, managing director of Farmex. “Ventilation also consumes a significant amount of electricity, especially in the summer, while lighting also accounts for a lot more power than many pig producers realize.”

“It’s extraordinary that so many pig producers are prepared to pay their large electricity bills, without ever wondering why they are so high, especially when they could save a lot of money just by paying attention to detail and doing things a bit better,” says Crabtree.

“Too many pig buildings are left unattended with the lights on, for example,” says Crabtree. He suggests that farmers should use as much natural light as possible by putting more windows in their pig buildings.

“The light levels required by pigs are actually very low, so producers only need to use artificial light to supplement the day length in the winter, or when people are working with the pigs,” says Crabtree. “It’s just a question of putting in windows, swapping high-voltage lamps for low-level ones and training works to switch off the lights when they don’t need them. The money saved this way will easily pay for any additional equipment needed in the short-term and reduce energy bills in the long-term.”

Saving money on heat

Pig producers also could save a lot of money by paying attention to creep heating and nursery heating. Monitors can help them manage their energy usage better and regulating temperatures properly to provide the type of environment the pigs need, he commented. 

“For example, piglets want a fairly big burst of heat when they are very young and on their own for the first time, but as they grow up they need less and less heat,” says Crabtree “We have shown that pig producers can reduce their energy costs in this section by up to 80 percent if they gradually reduce the heating as their pigs grow – they also have happier pigs.”

It is a similar story with ventilation – proper controls and the correct timings, with a careful eye on the weather, with suitable adjustments to cater for winter and summer time could have a significant effect on the energy bills.

“We have been able to discover all this with careful monitoring and then analyzing the numbers and taking action where necessary,” says Crabtree, who works closely with ARM Buildings, which is already including monitoring equipment as standard in its pig housing units.

Several other companies are also taking action to encourage producers to conserve energy.

Climate control systems

Stienen BE and Inno + are working to develop an innovative Cloud-based computing system to provide energy efficient climate control systems with optimum ventilation that can be controlled remotely by pig farmers.

Its new KL 6000 series climate computer can cater for two, five, or 10 rooms and can be adjusted to suit individual farm conditions. The new FarmConect unit stores all the information from the on-farm process computers in the Cloud database via a VPN-protected connection to allow farmers to use a web-browser to log on and access their farm data, wherever they may be.

“We are currently fine-tuning this system, which maximizes energy efficiency as well as ease of control wherever you are, in a live trial on a small unit on the German-Dutch borders,” says Stienen Be spokesman Maurice Vleugels.“There is already a lot of demand for this kit and I am hoping it will be on the market early next year.”

According to Vleugels, his company is interested in reducing energy demands and recycles it by using heat exchangers and the heat generated by the pigs themselves wherever possible to help producers cut their input costs. “In our trials we have already achieved savings of up to 75 percent in some areas and we hope to incorporate some of these new developments in the other climate control equipment we manufacture,” he said. 

Energy-efficient pig housing

Another company targeting energy efficient pig housing is Atlantic Systems, which offers indoor and outdoor accommodation for pigs. “This allows the pigs have their own micro-climates with natural ventilation and daylight,” says, managing director Lutz Steuer.

When the pigs and piglets are under cover, we only need to have the heaters on briefly (they are all computer controlled) because we recycle the heat from the pigs wherever possible to provide the animals with a better – and more cost-effective –climate, says Steuer.

According to Steuer, the advantages of the outer stalls, which are being distributed to producers throughout Europe, include low-investment costs, as well as low running costs. “These outdoor stalls occupy an increasingly important role in our offer for pigs. Many customers have now extended their stable or added more stalls, which we take as a positive sign of confidence,” he said. 

“The buildings are also a bit smaller than the conventional ones, so they need less artificial heating to reduce energy costs, especially now with these prices continually rising,” says Steuer.

Low-voltage power

Pig producers also can save on energy costs by investing in new equipment, such as the latest feeder from Quality Equipment, which uses low-voltage power and an electronic contact-free sensor to cut off power. It also has a universal adapter, so it could be plugged into any power supply in Europe, the United States or Australia without any further adjustments.

According to Mark Harding, design director, the feeder works on a “feed cycle” that was adjusted to give piglets time to rest and digest their food properly. The company also is aware of the need to save energy wherever possible these days, both from an environmental point, as well as because of the rising costs.

Everyone Pig International spoke to agreed that something had to be done to save, or recycle energy, or else find new, cheaper and greener resources.

Energy audits

And one way of doing that, suggests Fabrice Julien, marketing manager for Tuffigo Rapidex is investing in an energy audit to see exactly where energy is being used and where it could be saved or recycled. According to Julien, more pig farmers should also investigate the possibility of generating renewable energy on their farms.

“Ten years ago I was told by people that energy would become a key factor in pig farming costs and I thought they were crazy – but not now,” says Julien. “We are right in the middle of an energy crisis and I think all pig producers need to look for ways to cut back on energy usage, as well as possibly generate it for themselves. This is an important area to focus on, especially as far as the opportunities offered by wind and solar energy and, perhaps, biogas. It will often depend on a particular government’s energy policy, but it is definitely worth looking at.”

Page 1 of 64
Next Page