Farm Profile: Swine
Improving Creep Heat Conditions and Reducing Energy Use

For many years, swine farmers have struggled to change lamp sizes and adjust fixture heights to provide comfortable creep temperature. While baby pigs require a creep temperature of 36° C, sows will be most comfortable and maximize their milk production at about 18° C.

Piglets are born on the Jantzi farm and remain there for 18 days. While energy costs have always been an important factor to consider, the barn environment is the most important.

"We are in the business of nurturing and producing animals," comments Gerald Jantzi, "so we want to keep them as comfortable as possible in a clean creep environment."

Gerald and Donna Jantzi are proud of their swine farrowing operation.

Figure 1. Gerald and Donna Jantzi are proud of their swine farrowing operation.

Each room has its own forced air heater to maintain air temperature. In addition, infrared heat lamps and electric heat mats are used to heat the creep and provide the piglets with their own micro-climate.

The Jantzis began changing to electric creep heat mats about 20 years ago and have gradually, due to the cost factor, converted throughout their operation.

The benefits of converting to heat mats were immediate. This solid floor (mat) provides an area for the piglets to lie on. It keeps the piglets warm, comfortable and dry, and heat mats use less energy. As the pigs age, the Jantzis adjust the heat output on the heat pads with a controller, saving even more energy.

Non-uniform heat distribution creates hot spots causing piglets to pile and avoid lying under the heat lamp.

Figure 2. Non-uniform heat distribution creates hot spots causing piglets to pile and avoid lying under the heat lamp.

The uniform heat of this efficient heat lamp, heat pad and control system creates a comfortable environment.

Figure 3. The uniform heat of this efficient heat lamp, heat pad and control system creates a comfortable environment.

They use a high-quality heat lamp and power controller at farrowing time along with the heat mats to provide adequate uniform heat. The piglets need lots of heat to dryoff. The piglets are also attracted to the light of the heat lamp, and the Jantzis use this attraction to get the piglets to feed at the sow. A good quality power controller should have four power output settings at which to operate the heat lamp - 175, 125,or 100 watts and off. This choice of settings increases the ability to control heat output on heat lamps.

Piglets lie comfortably on the creep heat mat.

Figure 4. Piglets lie comfortably on the creep heat mat. (Photo courtesy of Retrolite Corporation of America)

Although the initial cost for the heat mat of approximately $150 to $200 per mat is relatively expensive when compared to $30 to purchase a heat lamp, the benefits to the animal environment and energy budget are significant. In a new installation, a 60-watt heat pad will save about 630 kW-h per year or about $76 per year with a 1.6-year payback over a 175-watt heat lamp. A life cycle cost comparison over one year would bring the savings to $56.54, assuming heat pads last five years and heat lamps 5,000 hours.

Annual Energy Comparison per Crate: Electric Heat Pad vs. Heat Lamp.

Figure 5. Annual Energy Comparison per Crate: Electric Heat Pad vs. Heat Lamp.

Cost Comparison: Heat Lamps vs. Heat Pads in Farrowing Crates.

Figure 6. Cost Comparison: Heat Lamps vs. Heat Pads in Farrowing Crates.

"We have always been aware of the cost of electricity, but the rate at which it is now increasing has made us even more sensitive," comments Gerald. "We have experienced big energy savings by being able to decrease the heat of the heat mat as the pigs get older, and this control efficiency is getting better all the time."

The Jantzis use roughly half as much energy by using heat mats. Their energy bills are somewhere around $4,000 per month, and they have been able to take 10% off those costs, saving approximately $5,000 per year on their farm.

The best time to make the conversion to heat mats is when the farmer plans on building a new barn or doing a rebuild. When this happens, agricultural engineers can be very helpful in creating a design for the most energy efficient barn possible.

"We have become so dependent on electricity and gas that whenever anything is installed on the farm we take energy costs into consideration," comments Gerald. "The bottom line is that with the heat pads, energy efficient heat lamps and improved control, we have seen increased efficiencies and decreasing costs over time."

 


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 01 April 2007
Last Reviewed: 18 August 2009