Thinking during a blizzard

As I write this week’s comments, blizzard warnings are in effect for this region. While it may be cold and miserable outside, the feeder pig market in the US is looking up. The highest reported price paid for weaned pigs in this week’s USDA report was $51.51/pig, the highest price reported since the last week of April. Given there is a 5 month period before pigs placed this week go to market, this means producers are increasingly optimistic about the late spring and summer markets.

Where will corn prices end up this year? This is the billion dollar question to the livestock industry and the American consumer. Prices in the meat case will have to rise to cover the higher cost of feed grains for all livestock segments. So far, the data I’ve seen suggests the consumer has been willing to absorb the modest increase in prices that have already occurred.

The Congressional fighting over the $0.45/gal blenders credit reauthorization and the long term mandate for use of ethanol is something every livestock producer is watching with interest. I think long term we need to get the consumer also involved in this discussion so they understand how the blenders credit and over usage of corn for energy is impacting their food expense. The last estimate I’ve seen suggests 1/3 of the total US corn crop will go to ethanol so the impact on the consumer is not a minor affair.

With the blizzard outside, I’m reminded of the many mistakes I saw this week on several producer sites regarding furnace sizing and set points in controllers. An errors in controller settings is money out the fan as the ventilation system will respond to mistakes by increasing the fan output. If you have a controller that captures daily high/low temperatures, when you are in full furnace mode and the variable speed fan should never increase speed, log the daily high temperature and the set point. The daily high should be 0.2-0.3F below the temperature at which the variable speed fan increases speed.

For most controllers, the variable speed fan increases speed when the room reaches 0.1F above set point, so the daily high should be 0.2F below set point. In controllers where you actually set the temperature at which the variable speed fan increases temperature, the daily high should be 0.2-0.3F below this temperature.

For those of you with pre-heated hallways in farrowing and nursery sites, if the rooms pull air from the hallway at minimum ventilation, the hallway needs to be set no higher than 45F. If it is higher than this and you have the minimum ventilation set correctly, you will use more propane than necessary in rooms with bigger pigs (week 3 of lactation or weeks 4-9 in the nursery).

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