Ventilation Workshops Lead to Improved Swine Facilities

side of hog building with curtains up

Iowa is the No. 1 pork producing state in the nation and its 50 million hogs create about 165,000 jobs and generate $11.7 billion in economic activity each year. One of the most important production factors keeping this industry viable is properly ventilated swine buildings.

Producers and consumers both benefit from healthy pigs, leading to higher profits for pork producers and lower costs of production. Heat energy loss in swine facilities is directly linked to ventilation management, and everyone benefits when the carbon footprint is lowered because of proper ventilation and lower energy costs.

Recognizing the significance of ventilation, swine extension specialists with the Iowa Pork Industry Center partnered with swine specialists Brett Ramirez, Jay Harmon and the Iowa Pork Producers Association and industry partners to develop and deliver hands-on ventilation training and education across the state. Using a portable trailer that demonstrates state-of-the-art technology, the group held statewide demonstrations in 2021. Nine workshops reached 121 operations and system flows, with an estimated influence of 18 million pigs and more than 680,000 sows.

Program outcomes

As a result of the training, managers and producers made a wide variety of changes in the management of pigs and ventilation systems. These include: air movement seal up curtains; using pig behavior to determine set points instead of simply following the same set points with every group of pigs; proper inlet setting for better air quality; keeping the barn sealed; improved fan and mister observation; and many other improvements.

A follow-up survey was issued, showing over 100 changes were applied to improve the operations following the workshops. More than 60% of the respondents lowered the set point temperature (saving energy and potentially improving performance), adjusted inlets more frequently, measured air velocity more often and started to check the static protection more often. About 50% started observing laying behavior of the pigs, looked for restricted airflow from the attic and remedied the problem, cleaned fan blades and louvers more often, made sure heaters were not running during heat removal fan stage, and checked to make sure the correct motor curve is selected for variable speed fans.

Impacting Iowans

A third of participants reported making a change in the probe location and weather stripping the door, and a quarter of participants reported sealing leaks around the pump-out. Ninety operations estimated the value of the workshop to their operations at $236,725, with an average per participant benefit of more than $2,500.