Getting your Ventilation Right with Brian Strobel
This is a special edition featuring Brian Strobel with Gestal. Brian is trained as an agriculture engineer but has also owned his own contract finishing units. He has spent most of his career working with pigs and producers and is passionate about getting things right in the barns. Learn about how to optimize your ventilation and performance with two seasoned professionals.
[00:00:00] Hello there. This is Dr. Casey Bradley, and you’re listening to the Real P3 podcast, a podcast dedicated to the real pork producers around the world. I hope you enjoy.
This week’s episode is a special feature. It came from an idea out of our Global Swine Professionals’ Facebook group. Somebody wanted to learn about ventilation, and I thought, what producer knows ventilation better than my friend, Brian, who now works for Gestal. He did own his own contract wing-to-finish barns that he managed ventilation for on a regular basis, and he also got his master’s degree in Ventilation. So, please join us as we talk about the topic of the week, or now the topic of the season: ventilation.
“Hello, Brian, how are you today?”
“Well, I’m doing well, Casey. How are you?”
“I’m doing [00:01:00] great. It’s just another cold day here in Arkansas. I think it’s a perfect time to discuss ventilation. Can you introduce yourself and your background to the audience though?”
“Sure. First of all, thanks for having me. My name is Brian Strobel. I work with Gestal, and I work in all three phases of production. My education and experience include – well, I won’t say the year, but I graduated from Ohio State University. Then, a few years later, I went to Purdue, Got my master’s, and then after I met my wife, we both got our MBAs. My master’s at Purdue was in Air Quality Inside Farrowing Rooms, and that gave me a lot of perspective from Dr. Al Heber on ventilation. That was in ’94 to ’96. So that’s really when I think I came into my own and learned a lot more about the industry. Then, experience includes I worked with [00:02:00] extension right after I married in the late nineties. I worked on the processing side, even though that’s not where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in live production. And then in 2007, Smithfield made me an offer, one I didn’t want to turn down, to be construction manager for the Western Operations. So, that was really enjoyable.
Then, I got the chance to work with all the pork power house 25, with Osborne. Then, just a few years ago, I started with Gestal, so, I got to see some things worldwide. Also, eight or nine years ago, we bought our first contract site for Smithfield, and a few years after that, we bought a Cargill site; now JBS site.
And so 8,000 spaces we sold those last year, but I still like working with the growers and sow farms & integrators. No matter what time of day it is, it’s fun to do, and I enjoy doing it each day.”
“Very interesting background. You’ve had many roles, many hats, and you’ve also [00:03:00] had your own bacon on the line per se, in the industry.
So this is a special topic that we’re talking about on ventilation. We’ve had several discussions now, I think over the last few weeks, in person and then virtually of course, but let’s talk about ventilation in the winter time. We’ll talk about it from the Northern hemisphere, and then we’ll get into summertime ventilation here at the end for our Southern hemisphere listeners. So talk about what some key important things this time of year are to really make sure that you hone in on. ”
“Yeah, I think this is the toughest time of year to ventilate; we’re ventilating for moisture. We deal with condensation this time of year. Respiratory challenges. We know that this is when PRRS is most prevalent and PED since 2014.
And it’s tough to receive wean pigs this time of year, too. So we’ve really gotta be on top of our game. I think the industry as a whole has done better in managing inlets, keeping air mixing on a ceiling, [00:04:00] regardless if I’m farrowing or gestation or finishing and nursery, we mix the air before it drops on the pigs.
That’s a key point in my mind, watching our leagues, are there are some folks smarter than me on heating and propane usage. Of course, we want to minimize that. With my grower hat on, I was the guy paying for the propane. You know, we were figuring two gallons per pig space per year is what we’d contract. That was usually pretty accurate, but still we wanted to make sure our curtains were tight. We were powered on natural making sure that we weren’t getting leaks in the site curtains and exhausting out the fans. Of course, we don’t want to exhaust our warm air needlessly. We know that warm air holds more moisture than cool air and heat always rises, so we’ve got to pay attention to it. Usually, we’re seven and a half to eight foot tall in our rooms with a flat ceiling. So still, in the wintertime, we’re bringing in air from the attic. So it is premixed, through our inlets, whether they’re bi-fold, or quad, or [00:05:00] or slot inlet, regardless of our method of entry. We’re still trying to pre-mix it from the eaves up into the attic and then down and exhaust it through our either pit fans through the floor or through wall fans on minimum vent through the wall.”
“Yeah. One of the unique things I learned this week and visiting with the Pig-Easy folks is I got to learn about baffles on pit fans and watching how you can redirect that air or close some of those inlets for the fans to have a different type of air. It was really interesting, by using some baffles or changing the flow rate around those pit fans, how we can still pull the moisture and gasses out, but that it looks like they weren’t pulling the heat out and saving on propane. So how do you manage this condensation balance between pit fans? You have your minimum ventilation fans and, of course, the mixing of air, but without burning too much propane. Cause I mean, I guess that’s the biggest thing that we want to have is fresh [00:06:00] air, but we also want to keep pigs warm. How do you balance that in cold weather?
“I want to give a plug then for Dr. Jay Harman at Iowa state. He’s probably the foremost of experts that I’ve gotten to work with. On one of our sites they had the pit fans removed and of course we only need pit fans on a deep pit barn. I don’t know of any new barns being built today with deep pits that do not have pit fans. But, you know, when we bought our site there, the pit fans were removed. We thought it was fairly tight, so we didn’t have leakage. Still, managing the pit fans is important; it’s a source for leakage, by far; I’ve seen lots of them. There’s pictures; Mike Brum shown lots of pictures in his day. So we just try to make sure that those are tight.
We know that those didn’t get washed well outside. So those louvers on those pit fan covers, they have a lot of dust buildup on them, or manure buildup, and they’re not well-cleaned in general. So, that’s an easy target for preventative maintenance, to go around and check those. And then our wall [00:07:00] fans aren’t much better. I know it. I’ve cleaned them myself, and it’s not easy to do it. You can use a broom or a stiff brush, or try to use the power washer and not damage them. Make sure that the veins all stay in place, so that the rod goes through them and they stay afffixed. So I know it might sound easier said than done. And when we’re actually doing it, making sure we don’t lose the vein either. I’ve lost them in the pit before, and ended up buying replacements, but it is something that needs to be on our checklist.”
“Well, no, I agree. It was mandatory on my units, even with shallower pits that the pit fans and the fans got washed every turn. I was a stickler at that, because when you’re washing them, I know you have to be careful with the power washer, but at the same time I was checking my louvers. Are they functioning right? Are they going around right? And so that was kind of in my mind, a checklist that I had, and I could tell. Sometimes I’d come back and I’d manage it. You want to talk about reducing your airflow, but you don’t clean your fans right, and especially your pit [00:08:00] fans. I think that’s an essential that we all forget. We’re very lean, very cost conscious, but maintenance – sometimes it’s the last thing we think of. I like to have preventative maintenance versus putting out fires and being reactive. So I think if you put that on your list, that you may even save costs long-term by maintaining versus putting out fires.”
“You’re right. That’s something I think we all can do better is preventive maintenance, because, when things come up, that’s what needs to be first priority. Taking care of pigs each da -, feed, water, and air – we know that. Then, I mean, taking out dead pigs, that’s a priority.
Cleaning pit fans means I got to get the pressure washer on the outside of the barn. So if I’m receiving pigs in early February here, outside, when it’s freezing out, it’s not so easy. I want to hurry up and get that done outside or else. Take a broom or brush on them first and clean them, so I get most of the large stuff off [00:09:00] and then try to hit them with the pressure washer, so that I get a lot of the smaller stuff off those things.
Also, I wanted to mention stir fans. That’s, I think, an often overlooked one, especially on tunnel barns, you know, we’re taking the air straight through the barn. On cross-vent, we’re coming from the sidewalls. Sometimes, I think, on our receiving inlets, bringing it through the airspace, we’ve got some dead spots in the corners.
We want to establish dunging patterns early, especially on wean-to-finish. They’re in such a large space, small animal, and we’re trying to provide a zone of heat for each pen and then establish our dunging patterns close to the sidewalls where it’s cooler. That’s usually where the waters are, and then the end game is maximized feed intake. Same as we do for lactation, anything we can do with environment to get a sow to eat as much as she can for her litter, because we want to maximize our litter weight. Then for wean-to-finish, especially, to get them started on water quickly so that they’ll eat, so we don’t lose two or three [00:10:00] days at the beginning getting them started. Whether that means a gruel feed or providing a water pan with a even feed on the mat, to get them started. Some folks still creep feed in late lactation to get them started, to get those gut biomes started so that they can take off quicker. If they’re not going to the nursery, going to such a large room, usually with concrete slats, it’s a cold floor versus a plastic floor in the nursery.
So I think a lot of that has been really worked on in the last 5 to 10 years. Since we’ve gotten to such a higher percentage of wean-to-finish and it’s become a lot more commonplace, and just a straight feeder barn or I’m receiving in that lot heavier pig. But I think that stir fan is often overlooked. I don’t see a lot of them. I think there is probably a need for them to mix that air horizontally within the room. Our warm air goes to the ceiling. We’re not bringing it back down to the floor. Pit fans do help to pull some of that air down. And then that starts to debate [00:11:00] how effective they’ve been. You know, what radius they’re pulling from, late in the fall, how effective they are, when we’ve got our pits mostly full most of the time, unless we’re taking out twice a year. Now, if you’ve got an empty pit in the wintertime, that’s tough receiving pigs, because you’ve got a big airspace and a lot more heat. That manure serves as somewhat of a buffer other times of the year, because you don’t have such a large airspace below the slab.”
“Very good point. I want to jump into, in Arkansas, we didn’t have the best barns. We weren’t built for cold weather. We’re built for hot weather. It was really hard for us to maintain our wing-to-finish barns above 55 degrees with a week like this, believe it or not. This is where zoning heating came into importance. So let’s talk about zone heating from farrowing to wean-to-finish. This time of year it is absolutely essential, but we can do it wrong, too. ”
“Yep. Those are good points. So, like I mentioned, I’d done my work at Purdue in the mid-nineties. It was on [00:12:00] air quality, but we did get into that zone heating discussion. The discussion on heat mats versus lamps is a key part of that, because a lamp, I’ve got a round pattern, and also if I lower it, I get more intense heat, but I get less coverage. If I raise it, I get more coverage, less heat. So, I kind of lose either way with that. On day one pig care, if I don’t have a night crew, I think those are valid points. I need heat and light for them until my crew gets there at six or seven in the morning. But, then that needs to be out of there and, you know, taken somewhere else. We don’t need it any more if they’re using a mat.
I’m trying to provide a third of a square foot of coverage per piglet in farrowing. The goal is you shoot for half a square foot of heated area in wean-to-finish. So a third of a square foot for me means, if I’ve got 12 viable piglets, I need four square feet of coverage in my farrowing crate. Usually on one side. I know there’s some producers provide heat on both sides, but I think most that I’ve worked with and seen provide heat on one side of the creep area. On a six [00:13:00] foot wide crate, it’s easy. I got a two foot creep area on one side, two foot for the sow, two to the other side. If I’m five foot or five and a half, it’s increments of that. So if I’m providing a one foot area out from the creep divider of heated area, I still got a zone of separation to the sow to decrease my pre-wean mortality.
I don’t think they have any business being close to the sow unless they’re nursing. I don’t want them sleeping there. I want them back towards the creep divider to limit our pre-wean mortality. That’s been well documented by others and by university trials, but still trying to center that heat placement, close to where the teats are. Ideally, our end game is to get the smaller piglets, to be able to get one of the front teats, where they usually have more milk. I think the problem that I’ve seen in farrowing, most of the time, and most everybody, I think, would agree, is we run our warm rooms too warm. Yeah. I’d had lots of questions on, Hey, why won’t my sow’s eat more? Some of it, we’ve got to come back to ourselves and say, ‘Hey, it’s partly our problem, [00:14:00] because we’re running a room too warm.’ We’ve got to realize this is the only stage of production where we’ve got two distinctly different age groups. We’ve got a mature sow, 600 pound sow …
“Yeah, 600 pounds and a lot of body mass. She gets hot, and trust me after having kids, you’re hot.”
“I’ll take your word for it. [laughing] But yeah, she’d be fine at 65 degrees Fahrenheit. So, that’s a big challenge for a lot of folks to think ‘I’m not running my rooms that cool.’ I know there’s several producers that are, but the point I wanted to make is she’s fine at a cooler temperature. We want to start those piglets at 95 degrees in our micro-environment. And then one degree down per day, ramp down until they leave. So in 21 days it’s usually down to 74 degrees; that’s the goal set points we have. That environment plays a huge role, and we know it in summertime, because we’ve seen, she [00:15:00] doesn’t want to eat.
So many tactics that we have, like me with Gestall, we’ve got several very good tactics for her to maximize intake during hot weather. But now during cold, we’re maybe erring on the side of protecting the piglets. I realize that, but at the expense of the sow.
Two other things I’ve noticed are, usually we’re not using horizontal hovers. I mentioned drafts. That’s usually that one of the first things I look for on a farrowing room is, or to feel, where’s the drafts? If it’s coming from the hallway, my second crate’s usually going to be chill.
“Brian, why do you think North America, compared to other parts of the world, has gone away from louvers or hovers or those boxes or covers for baby pigs? Why do you think we’ve gone away from that? Besides that they’re a pain in the butt and they get dirty.”
“Yup. and I got to wash them. Yup. I’m not sure I have a good answer for that. I know we’re not as cold as some of the Europeans and some of the Canadians. We’re yet [00:16:00] to have a lot of comparisons to… Still, we want to maintain an airspeed coming from our inlet, whether it be from the ceiling or the hallway, so that we’re not dropping air on those pigs. Somebody told me the other day that they average three days loss on chilled piglets from a hallway. I suppose that’s right. But anything that we can do to minimize that, so we increase our wean weight for the average of the room. I just haven’t seen a lot of hovers. 10 years ago, I think I’ve seen more. And I’ve been to Europe several times, working with customers and, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark. They definitely use hovers more than we do. I just think, with our employee labor, a lot of times, it’s not family labor that we got, it’s something else to wash in that room. We’ve got to turn that room around quickly for the next group. There’s probably other reasons beyond that. But what I do know is that creep divider’s 20 inches tall. That’s my vertical divider to limit [00:17:00] drafts. But if we’re dropping air over the top, that’s the short circuit in our system I think we need to pay better attention to.”
“I don’t care if it’s winter or summer, if you’re dropping cold air through a cool cell on a baby pig in the summer, it’s no good either.”
“Yeah. They’re not made for that because they’ve got a high body mass-to-weight ratio and they’re not set up to temperature regulate like the sow is. We’re trying to get heat away from the sow. Purdue has done some excellent work on that for sow cooling. You know, getting heat, dissipating it from the sow.
In summertime, we all know the stress that she goes through. And like you were saying, she just gave birth. We want to minimize that stress. We want to maximize her intake to maintain her body condition but also to maximize that litter weight. I know when I receive wean pigs in January, February, and they’re less than 12 pound average, two things there: One, I want a 15 pound average wean pig, if I could, receiving it into a wean-to-finish [00:18:00] barn. Two, what’s the variance? Am I receiving an 11 pound and 9 pound pig? That’s a challenge from the start, poor performer. It’s really hard to make him a good performer, because he’s already behind. He’s got to play catch up, and his gut biome is probably not established well yet. It’s just another disadvantage that we’ve got. We have to separate him to another pen for low performers and get him up to speed.”
“Where should the lightweight pigs go in your barn? If you’re pulling those out and making lightweight pins, should they go in a ventilated barn in the middle, at one of the ends, I always thought my best growing pigs is right by the fans.”
“Yep. Yeah. In a tunnel barn, it should always be warmer at the tunnel fan because you’re pulling that warm air down the barn. Usually I’ve seen them in the middle. I know it varies by integrator, by your territory manager, where he or she wants you to have that sick pin or the fall behind pin established. I know they could be at the [00:19:00] inlet end of the barn, but you know it’s going to be cooler, so I usually wouldn’t want them there. Then you can talk, ‘Well, I’ve got, I can have more attention if they’re near the door cause I’m likely to check them more often.’ I guess I’ve seen them more often than not, regardless of integrator, towards the middle of the barn. They’re less likely to be challenged, too hot or too cold. They’re not at one end of the barn where they’re too far to get to, but I know it varies by integrator and their SOPs where they want their sick pen to be. I think the key point is leaving some extra space to pull them out, to get them there, or whether I’m seven and a half to eight square foot range in all for my per head and finishing. Still, I want to be able to get them to a pen, pull them.
That’s the same thing we see in gestation. If she’s lame, I got to get her early. If she’s going off feed… I had that question come up today about finished pigs, getting them to a pen early. Not knowing if they’re going off feed or water. I think the chicken guys do a lot better job of knowing when birds are going [00:20:00] off water than we still do. Although we’re making strides with our water meters, but if they’re going off water, they’re going to go off feed, the key is to catch them early. If I’m going to pull them to a pen and get them by themselves. We’re doing better, I think as an industry, for gestating sows. Finished pig wise, with contract growers, get them to that emptier pens. so they’re not get beat up. They have more feeder space so that we can help them get caught up and get them more personal attention.”
We would like to take this break to thank our sponsors, The Sunswine Group, NutraSign, Swine Nutrition Management, and Pig Progress. Without their support, this adventure would not be possible. So now back to our appisode.
“So let’s switch gears. Let’s imagine, we’re down with my friends in South Africa right now on a Safari or something in a warm tropical weather. Sometimes we have that transition time and that hard time of switching [00:21:00] seasonality. Some people say we can have three different seasons in one day or one week.
How do you adjust as you’re coming out of winter and into summer and managing ventilation? Are there better systems or controllers that can help you balance that? Or, I mean, what are the best ways to transition from cold stress into mild to heat stress with ventilation systems?”
“Yeah. There’s no doubt that the controllers have made great advances in the last 10 years from what we had before. I think that has been a key help, plus our animal husbandry of training and working with territory managers and some manufacturers as we walked through barns. So I think it’s a mix of both equipment and knowledge. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet. I don’t think, yet, you can put a controller in and ventilation package and walk away.
It’s easier for somebody that’s new. I’ll [00:22:00] grant that for a new manager. We always want to think about that. If we have to change managers in a sow farm or in a finisher, you know, how quickly are they going to learn the system, obviously for the benefit of the managing the animal, being able to check ventilation on their phone is definitely an advancement to check it remotely, check it in the evenings after they left the farm. But what you said earlier, it goes back to manage my inlets. They got to work as a unit; manage my exhaust fans, whether they’re variable speed or fixed speed. I know I went to a JBS open house yesterday. They’ve got some really neat features now where you can see color-coded louvers, for your fixed speed versus your variable speed fans.
If you ever look at one end of the barn and see if your louvers are open at the other end. If they’re dirty, like we said, they’re not going to be open all the way. So now you might be losing 30-40% of your capacity just because you can’t get the louvers open. In the winter time, the opposite of that, if you’re missing a louver, that’s cold air rushing in, put the back of your hand up [00:23:00] against that and you can really feel that cold air leakage area, or even, as cold as it’s going to be here and below zero, frozen water lines at the worst. We don’t want that or chill pigs or reverse dunging patterns. I think it’s definitely easier today than it has been, but also we don’t have our choice of labor today, either.
In the US, we don’t have an abundance of labor, at the farm, we’ve got to do more with less people. On our sow farms, where average is one person for 300 or thereabouts, and the rule has been, on a finisher, one person full-time equivalent or FTE should manage up to 8,000 spaces.
So that’s been the rules of thumb, for management. And I think, using the data, I think that’s what’s different today, than in the mid-nineties and last 25 years. My philosophy has been, okay, so we’ve got more access to data today. What are we going to do with it when we want to be better today than we are tomorrow?
So we’re able to collect data. We want to be able to use that to get better later, so that in spring and in the fall time, like you were [00:24:00] saying, when it’s transitioning, it might be cold in the morning, but by afternoon, it’s going to be hot or warm, and you’re gonna have those fluctuations go through, and same in the fall as you are getting into continuous cold.
So, it’s still gonna be a combination of equipment advances and personal knowledge of knowing. Even a good manager, if he’s got poor ventilation or some of these quad inlets we still have that I’ve had in some of our barns, that’s tough because you can’t keep them tight enough. That’s a source for leakage. You always have to have a backup generator, for dropping curtains or for emergency ventilation. That’s a lot of leakage there; it’s hard to plan for. We can run our calculations, but we’ve got to make allowances for how much leakage we have.”
“So let’s talk cooling. You’re a Purdue university alumni. They have their sow cooling pads and stuff. What’s the best way to cool sows and then wean-to-finish, how [00:25:00] to manage through that?”
“Yeah. And I know the veterinarian’s listening to this call are gonna be thinking relative or humidity. I know that we can control for relative humidity, have a sensor in the room and static pressure. So I don’t want my doors to slam because it’s too tight. We’ve had those discussions before; we can get the room too tight. Same as in a house. My dad had talked about that. So there’s certain ways you know if a building’s too tight or too loose, usually we’re too loose. Usually we’re not too tight, but with a sow cooling pad, I’m hoping that they make good progress with that at Purdue and getting it available.
I think there’s some merit to it. There’s a cost point. We’re already providing a micro-environment for each litter in that farrowing room. Then if we can have a sow cooling for her, that makes sense, as long as it does, financially and return on investment. But my point being earlier that just so we pay attention, how else can I cool her? If I’m using a cool cell, bringing it through the hallway into the room, [00:26:00] that’s adding moisture, and the veterinarians will say, well, that’s a respiratory challenge a lot of times, and this is our season for PRRS and PED.
We just want to pay attention to air quality. For my thesis, for example, we were looking at fan settings, ventilation, also doing additives. How could I get dust out of the year? Dust and bacteria are highly correlated. A lot of times the dust rides on the bacteria. So if I get the dust out, I get the bacteria and virus out, so that’s an easy one, if I can get the dust out. We don’t have a commercially available, widely adopted dust reduction system in the US. today.
We’ve got several producers I can name that do a very good job and are advanced in trying to limit dust, but the sources of dust are feed, animal dander, and environmental dust. So if we’re limiting desk coming into eaves, for example, that helps, but we’re always going to have feed dust, no matter if we’re pellets or mash, and we’re going to have a certain amount of animal dandruff. No matter [00:27:00] if we’re washing sows before, their skin dries out, and you’re going to have dead skin cells. And we’re not washing them throughout the term, the 21 to 24 days that she’s in farrowing. So she’s going to have animal dander in the room. What we’d like to do is get that out of the air to decrease the challenge.”
“So I’ve got a really tough question for you on the whole ventilation thing, as we talk about the Paris climate and global warming and going green in different initiatives, not here just in the US, but around the world. Is it going to be possible that a pig production site can produce all of its energy, either from gases from the pit to solar, to offset our heating costs and our electric. Do you think that is a possibility and what are we lacking to get there?”
“Well, this is going to be my opinion, so take this for what it’s worth. I should say, in 2007, [00:28:00] I got my Agricultural PE license. So I’ve been licensed since then. And then last year I joined ASES (American Solar Energy Society). I’m familiar with solar energy since 1978, when my mom and dad put it in. So with those caveats, here’s my opinion. I’d rather not be legislated to do it. I’d rather we do it for the right reasons: for energy usage or to limit carbon footprint is a noble endeavor or effort. I think we have a lot better tools today for solar and for wind. Those are the two most readily available we have. And then looking at the return on investment for those two. I know we looked at it for our barns, and I had mentioned that I didn’t think we had enough equity to do that. If our barns were paid off, we could. So I think that might be a case by case basis or decision.
I know Southeast Iowa has the best areas that I’ve seen for renewable energy, because I see lots of ground mount solar, and roof-mounted solar [00:29:00] photovoltaic. I grew up with solar hot water heating in place of electric or natural gas or propane for our water heater. We heated it with solar. Nowadays, it’s for electricity. Then the debate goes, do I need a battery? Can I store that electricity? Or can I sell it back at retail price, or is it going to be at wholesale price back to utility company? And I think it varies by utility company. You might get some mail on that, but I think those are some of the questions.
I know we looked at it for our house to putting it on the house. I think if it makes sense, I know people continue to adopt it. I think the life of solar panels, for example, They’re claiming 25 years, so I know that they’ve gotten better quality. Then we get the question if I’m going on the roof so it doesn’t interfere with having it on the ground. Part of my trust is strong enough to support that. I have a factor of safety enough with a snow load and adding a dead load of solar panels on my roof. Whereas the ground mount question is [00:30:00] can I keep deer out or put a fence up? And then I know there’s communities that have objected to solar because of a fence, because the deer can’t get through. Then other people object to seeing windmills turn or affecting migratory patterns. I think the bottom line is, my opinions have been, I think we’ll continue to see more alternative energies adopted. With methane, I know in that Northern Missouri area, they’ve adopted some; I know North Carolina has as well.
I know that technology can continue to get better, and if we keep working with them, no doubt, they will be same for transportation. Whether it’s on a pipeline or trucking, I think each of those has some merit. You have to have enough concentration to make it worthwhile. Like with us, most of our barns run east-west in a swine industry. I know there’s some north-south barns, but by-and-large we’re east-west. So we’ve got a south-facing roof. So for solar, that’s great. I’ve got a built-in platform. My first choice is can I put on the south side, [00:31:00] south facing roof, so my barn. Most of us have plenty of ground space that we could consider a ground mount as well. Maybe not so much for wind, because you’ve got to match being in the area where you’re going to catch the most wind. So I think it’ll continue to be adopted. I just hope we do it for the right reasons.”
“The majority of our heat comes from natural gas or propane today. Will that have to change or do you think we can evolve our systems? I know it’s been a challenge and it’s always, as you said, for the right reasons, and it hardly ever pencils out sometimes for a lot of people to bring gas off of the manure pits, lagoons and things. Can we… do you think it’s possible to become self-sufficient on gas as well from the manure?”
“Well, the problem with that, though, is where opposite times of the year when we’re producing the most solar, we’re going to have the most light available, versus, in the wintertime, we don’t have a consistent source of sunlight, or we might have snow on [00:32:00] those reflectors.”
“Yeah, and our manure’s in the ground in the winter.”
“Yep, and we’re trying to ventilate to keep noxious gasses, we’re controlling for hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and carbon dioxide. We can’t debate whether being a noxious gas or not, cause we’re all producing carbon dioxide. It has to be electricity, right? For me, paying the bills for propane or natural gas, of course we want to limit that. But that zone heating you mentioned, that was, I think that’s the key. We know it is in farrowing. In wean-to-finish, we’ve seen it as well with the adoption of brooders. We’re just heating zones. That creates dunging patterns from day one, where they’ll dung, so they won’t reverse dung near the center aisle. That’s usually what we see along the gate. That’s not what we want. We want them dunging away from that, away from the feeders. So it’s nice and dry there, and we’re seeing some of that same in gestation as well, establishing dunging patterns. Where the waters are placed is a key part of that. Of course, we want fresh water. We don’t want them to dung in [00:33:00] a cup. We want the cups to be clean. So it’s clean water if we’re using cups, but I think that’s a key piece of how the environment can help her total feed consumption. So she’s gotta drink a large amount to be able to eat, and then placement of those is something that we can control to keep the floors dry.
We’ve talked a lot about sow mortality in the past: dry floors, limiting bacteria on the floor. I think we’ve started to pay quite a bit of attention to that, so that we can help our longevity, because most of us would agree that we should do better on our sow mortality. We’re pretty low on our parity structure. We’d like to see, as long as we wouldn’t lose production, for it to last longer in the herd. We try to do everything we can to help that feet and leg structure, so we don’t damage toes, and then for a terminal animal, like we have in wean-to-finish, he’s only going to be there five months or so, so it’s not seen as too critical there. [00:34:00] We still want dry floors. Of course.. we want it to be comfortable. We don’t want them to, we know in summertime, of course they could lay in a warm area to be more comfortable. They would, but certainly not in the winter time, like now.”
“So I think you bring up a great point about ventilation being a critical component of our conversation of lowering our carbon footprint and becoming carbon neutral, not just on renewable energy sources, but on also keeping our floors dry and then ammonia around maximizing production and that kind of stuff. So with that, if there’s not any other points, I think is a good time to wrap it up to say that we need to bring ventilation into every conversation on performance.”
“Yep. You’re right. And I would add, too, that I think each of us has our own specialty. I have nutritional discussions every day, and I think the end game is, maximizing body condition and average daily gain. Thank you for allowing me to get those points across for paying [00:35:00] attention to our environment, because that impacts our end goal of animal husbandry, taking care of the sow and growing pig and the piglet to help them to have as much intake as we can to help them with our growth targets.”
“Well, thanks, Brian. If you get a chance, I guess I’ll see you maybe in a few weeks in Illinois, if that works out.”
“That’d be great.”
“All right. Take care.”
“Thanks Casey. Bye.”
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