Shed light on power waste
By James Garner
IMPROVING energy efficiency can save indoor pig units more than 5% of fixed costs a year.
Steve Bettany, Stoneleigh-based livestock specialist for the Farm Energy Centre, says that a new self-assessment energy efficiency audit has been introduced to enable pig producers to improve energy efficiency with little capital investment. The audit is designed to lead producers through units, checking all electrical equipment.
"The booklet costs £40 and guides you through the process step-by-step helping to identify priorities. High priority items do not involve capital but improve efficiency," says Mr Bettany.
The audit booklet is accompanied by a reference book costing £30, which allows producers to update their energy knowledge and understand features of the audit booklet.
"Where producers do not want to conduct the audit, we can do it, but this costs more," adds Mr Bettany. "An average sized pig unit will cost £300 to £500"
To see whether and where on-farm savings could be made, Mr Bettany visited Stuart Pooles Hopyard Farm, Newark, Notts.
Mr Poole, who runs 250 indoor sows, taking them to finishing at 90kg liveweight, is aware that greater control of energy use can be made, but is not currently willing to commit capital to that.
The electricity bill for pigs is estimated at £6000 or more each year, although Mr Poole stresses that mill and mixing increases usage.
"I am interested to see whether low capital expenditure can give significant savings," he says.
The unit has a mixture of old and new buildings. "Some of the buildings have been converted from old cattle housing, but the latest addition is a temperature controlled farrowing house and I would expect this to be energy efficient," he says.
"The older farrowing house uses pig lamps for heating and I suspect this is less efficient."
This building has six farrowing crates in one room and eight in another and is where Mr Bettany began his audit.
"We can make savings in this farrowing house by cleaning reflectors on the infra-red pig lamps in the first room," says Mr Bettany. "In the second room there is no thermostat dimmer on the pig lamps because it is broken.
"It would cost £808 a year to leave the pig lamps on all day for three weeks out of four, based on Economy 7 tariff. Installing 50% dimmers would halve running costs to £404 a year, or £33 a month."
Eight dimmers would cost £80, giving a return on investment in three months," says Mr Bettany.
Mr Poole is surprised that energy costs amount to so much and how improvements can be paid back over a short period of time.
"I am considering refurbishing this building, but I am waiting until the economic climate improves. I will repair the thermostat for pig lamps, which will reduce costs, but I am not looking to spend money at the moment," he says.
Mr Bettany notes the new farrowing house has modern fittings and good insulation. "The only action point is to improve housekeeping by cleaning fans and louvers," he says.
Mr Poole concedes the finishing house has a ventilation problem, but he has improved airflow by opening the doors at each end and Mr Bettany agrees that this is probably the best solution.
Cleaning the five Optima vents in the finishing house would improve fan efficiency by 10-15%, says Mr Bettany. "Assuming they are set up correctly this would reduce energy costs by the same amount."
Mr Poole realises cleaning is required. "We have spent time in the past cleaning this building, but like a number of jobs at the bottom of the list it has a lower and lower priority.
Mr Bettany says energy costs at Hopyard Farm could be cut by at least 5% by better housekeeping. "The savings made in the farrowing house alone would cut energy costs by over 6%."
Mr Poole says he would seriously consider spending £70 on the self-assessment audit. "Any savings are worthwhile, especially where they dont reduce physical or financial output." *
Stuart Poole (left) and Steve Bettany check light fittings in the new farrowing house.
Installing 50% dimmers will halve pig lamp running costs, says Steve Bettany. The unit at Hopyard Farm consumes £6000-worth of electricity a year.
• Low cost savings.
• Improve knowledge of energy.
• Easy to implement.