Managing Your Unseen Employee: The Ventilation System

Terry Steinhart, swine field specialist


Many swine producers have sophisticated ventilation systems to promote efficient production, while being mindful of animal welfare and worker health. Many of these systems do not meet their full potential because of design problems or the lack of operational knowledge. With high-energy costs and low pork prices, it is imperative that producers operate ventilation systems with the utmost efficiency. With growing animal welfare concerns, it is also very important to provide a healthy climate for pigs as well as for workers.


A ventilation workshop, Managing Your Unseen Employee: The Ventilation System, was developed in a cooperative effort within Iowa and with neighboring states. This six-hour workshop provided the opportunity for swine producers to not only learn how to use ventilation equipment they already have in a better way, but provided them with an understanding that will allow them to diagnose their own problems as they arise. Participants received hands-on opportunities they would not normally have because of an innovative ventilation demonstration unit that was used at each site. In addition, producers were allowed to try out troubleshooting equipment and ventilation controllers in different scenarios.


During 2003-2004, 319 people have been through the workshop held at 17 locations throughout Iowa. People completing the survey indicated that their yearly production included over 10 million finishing pigs and 600,000 sows. When asked to rate the benefit gained from overall program, no one selected 'not much', 14.8 percent selected 'some', 62.3 percent selected 'fair amount', and 23 percent selected 'quite a lot'. When asked to predict the annual value of the education, 4.5 percent indicated over $10,000, 18 percent indicated over $5,000, 32.6 percent indicated over $2,500, and 61.8 percent indicated they would save over $1,000 per year. The impact is likely larger on most farms because the improved energy efficiency is the only actual bill that producers see. Improvements in pig performance or reduced veterinary costs are difficult to estimate and even more difficult to document.

This workshop in my area was held in Washington, Iowa, and Linn Counties. Washington had 25 participants, Linn 15, and Iowa 18.

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