This past week I was on the program of the 2017 Midwest Farm Energy Conference in Morris, MN. My topic – why swine producers should be concerned about energy systems.
Energy use in North American swine production systems consists mainly of electricity and propane usage. The main uses of electricity are ventilation (primarily heat removal from a facility) and feed processing. At breed-wean sites, the biggest electric usage is creep heat, either heat lamps or heat mats. Propane usage is obviously related to heating needs in winter for smaller pigs.
As we look to the future of energy usage, the need for cooling (heat removal) will top the list. I’ve written in earlier blogs how heat production by growing pigs and lactating females is increasing. With global warming (man caused or natural climate cycle caused) this will become a bigger limit to pig performance. Already pig production in warmer climate zones (much of the Pacific Rim, Mexico, Spain) is limited by the ability to keep the pig cool. A reduction in feed intake and the consequential reductions in performance are the obvious results of this.
In North America (US and Canada) we don’t realize how good our general climate is for pork production. Yes, we have summer heat. However, with the use of cooling devices such as evaporative cooling in breed-wean units and wetting of pigs in growing facilities, we can significantly reduce the impact of this heat. Also, the heat only lasts 3 months or so in the upper Midwest and Canada. Contrast this with 6-9 months of heat and humidity in many countries where pigs are raised and you can see our performance advantage.