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Optimising Energy Efficiency in Pig Buildings

by 5m Editor
24 January 2008, at 12:00am

By pig specialists at the Prairie Swine Centre, Saskathchewan. Energy conservation and efficiency can be achieved by improving management techniques, making minor structural changes to buildings and prduction systems and adopting new technologies. Here, PSC technicians revise some key areas where savings can be made.

Lighting up the Barn

The main lights used in barns are: incandescent, compact fluorescent and fluorescent. Regular incandescent are only 10 per cent efficient at converting energy to light; the rest is wasted as heat. Long life’ incandescent are poorer still at about 7-8 per cent efficiency. Compact fluorescent (CF) provide good energy efficiency and are easily retrofitted into incandescent fixtures. However, CF lamps have shorter equipment life and higher cost of replacement compared to T-8 (standard 4') fluorescent tube systems. The new standard (for barns where ceiling height is less than 12') is the T-8 fluorescent fixture with electromagnetic ballast (Note: electronic ballasts are less reliable on farms), mounted in a weatherproof fibreglass or plastic housing with gasketed diffuser. These units are more than four times as efficient as regular incandescent and the lamps last at least 24 times longer. The main light sources in swine production are fluorescent and incandescent. There are large variations in these two lighting systems:

  • fluorescent lighting takes less energy to provide the desired light compared to incandescent
  • incandescent lamps are closer to sunlight (similar spectrum of light) than typical "cool white" fluorescent
  • conversion from incandescent to fluorescent will reduce energy usage by up to 75%
  • incandescent lamps cost about $1.00 each and last 1000 hours (120 V regular life) to 5000 hours (130 V long life). However, the long life lamp provides about 25% less light than the regular lamp for the same amount of energy
  • fluorescent lamps last 24,000 hours and cost about $2.00 each
  • conversion to fluorescent from incandescent typically has a payback of less than 4 months
Other considerations for energy efficient light systems includes the use of timers, programmed to turn lights on/off to meet daily swine needs (see Table 1) or motion sensors in personnel areas.

A lighting retrofit from incandescent to vapour proof fluorescent (and some compact fluorescent) fixtures on a 240 sow farrowto- finish facility realized annual savings of over $5000. The cost of electricity was about $0.07/KWh and the payback was less than two years.

Where barn ceiling height exceeds 12', the more efficient high intensity discharge (HID) fixtures (including metal halide and high pressure sodium) should be considered. They are easier to install, maintain and require fewer fixtures to provide the same level of light.

Know the Temperature Requirements of Your Animals

Studies have shown that a pig may spend over 50 per cent of its lifetime out of its thermal comfort zone. The producer must identify this zone as it has implications regarding animal health and energy efficiency.

In a building that is too warm:

  • energy is wasted
  • costs are greater than a room at optimal temperature
  • pigs will separate from one another and seek out wet parts of the pen
  • animals will suffer from slow weight gain and are susceptible to disease
In a building that is too cool:
  • cold pigs will huddle and lie with minimal body contact to the floor and piglets will shiver
  • animals will suffer from slow weight gain and are susceptible to disease
  • feed consumption will increase but not rate of weight gain
For groups of uniform size, producers should aim for the optimal temperature settings outlined in the table below. Values stated in the chart are temperatures producers should strive for; however, a variation from these temperatures of +/- 3 degrees C is still within the acceptable range of animal well being and productivity. Remember that feeding level is relevant, as full fed animals are able to withstand colder temperatures. Producers can decide to increase or decrease feed or fuel to maximize net returns.

Water Wastage

Pigs consume 1/4 to 1/3 gallons of water per pound of dry feed or a ratio by weight of approximately 3:1. Temperature has an impact on water consumption as a 1 degree C rise above 20 degrees C results in a sow drinking 0.2L more water per day. Severely restricting water to swine results in concentrated urine, urinary tract infections and even death. The implication is that limiting water cannot be used to reduce energy costs but decreasing water wastage can.

Danish Drik-O-Matic watering bowl reduces water wastage up to 20% compared to conventional nipples


In regards to water wastage, producers should consider the following:
  • wet/dry feeders address the water wastage concern by incorporating a nipple drinker in the feed bowl as the only water source, reducing water use by 30% and slurry volume by 20-40 per cent . This has an implication on quantity of slurry within the barn
  • it is recommended that 1 nipple drinker be provided for every 15 pigs
  • in a period of one minute drinkers should deliver 1 litre for breeding stock, 650-700ml for growers and 475ml for weaners
  • grower – finisher pigs may waste up to 60% of the water from a nipple drinker
  • cup or bowl waterers are returning in popularity primarily because they waste less water, reducing spillage 10-15 per cent
  • hauling manure a mile away costs at least a penny a gallon with a custom hauler. Therefore, cup waterers or bowl drinkers will save you money for manure removal and reduce the water bill.

Cut Back on Manure Volume

Feed has been an area of interest regarding manure volume reduction. This is important for the producer as it impacts the amount of manure to be removed from the barn and the energy required to do this.

The issue of manure volume can be simplified into the following three points:

  • feed enzymes can shift the digestive process in the pig allowing for more efficient growth, being brought to slaughter on a lower feed intake and consequently, less manure being produced. A seven per cent improvement in feed utilization efficiency will translate into a five per cent reduction in the weight or volume of manure excreted
  • reducing crude protein in swine diets results in as much as a 28 per cent decrease in slurry volume. This is due to the pig consuming less water in an effort to eliminate reduced amounts of nitrogen in the body
  • feeding pellets rather than meal can increase digestibility and decrease excretion due to efficiencies of digestion resulting from grinding to a smaller particle size. The feed processing aspect however is an energy consumer and producers should be aware of this. More information regarding feed processing will be available in Part II of this factsheet.

The remaining five of the Top 10 ways to reduce energy costs in the barn can be found in Energy Efficiency in Barns Part II. Of equal importance will be an information database set up on the Prairie Swine Centre website for producers, professionals, scientists, etc. to access more detailed information regarding energy efficiency.

Further Reading

- To view the original list of tips click here.
- Or, to view a recent PSC presentation on this subject click here.


January 2008