Prairie Swine Centre

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Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

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Author(s): B.Z. Predicala, D. Asis, E. Navia
Publication Date: January 1, 2006
Reference: Prairie Swine Center Annual Research Report 2006
Country: Canada



Three research projects were started within the PSCI Engineering Research Program that involve controlling emissions using nanoparticles, assessing barn energy use to reduce utility costs, and evaluating a new housing system for grower-finisher pigs. The goals and the activities within each project are described.


Research activities within the PSCI Engineering Research Program are aimed to address environmental sustainability concerns relevant to the pork industry and to optimize the physical and management systems within swine operations to improve net profitability. In line with these goals, three research projects were started within the program during the past year. However, these studies are in the early stages of the research process, thus, discussion of final results is not yet possible. This overview provides a brief description of each project and the activities that will be undertaken over the coming year.

Use of nanoparticles to control emissions from swine manure slurry
(B. Predicala, D. Asis; funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC))

The overall goal of this research is to determine the technical feasibility of using reactive nanoparticles to reduce odour and gaseous emissions from swine barns. The rationale for this research is to take advantage of recent advances in nanoparticle technology to develop control measures for odour and gaseous emissions from swine facilities.

Nanotechnology refers broadly to the control and manipulation of atoms and molecules to create structures and devices at nanoscale dimensions with novel properties and functions attributed to their small size. Nanoparticles are nanoscale materials that are created by controlled processes to attain specific properties. The multitude of uses of nanoparticles includes environmental applications such as wastewater remediation, destruction of toxins and pathogenic microorganisms, as well as air filtration and purification. These applications were mainly due to inherent properties of nanoparticles which can be highly-reactive when in contact with the target compounds, particles, or microorganisms. Because emissions from swine barns consist mainly of gaseous compounds (e.g., odour, hydrogen sulphide (H2S), ammonia (NH3)) and aerosolized particles of biological origin (i.e., bioaerosols), it is hypothesized that reactive nanoparticles could also be effective in controlling emissions from swine operations.

Initial experiments were conducted to test the impact of nanoparticles on selected target gases at known concentration. Six types of nanoparticles were selected based on their performance in previous similar applications, their reported chemical and physical properties, and from consultation with technical staff of a company that manufactures these materials.

Using the sampling flow rate and amount of particles determined from preliminary tests, the results of the tests on these six types of nanoparticles and other common materials are shown in Figure 1. The values shown are the normalized concentrations, meaning lower values (<1.0) indicate better effectiveness in reducing the target gas concentration. Among the nanoparticles tested, the top three materials based on effect on 50-ppm NH3 target gas were Al2O3, TiO2 and ZnO, which corresponded to a reduction of 85.6%, 85.2%, and 78%, respectively. Using MgO, MgO+ and ZnO nanoparticles, the concentration of H2S was reduced to <1.0 ppm (below detection level of the H2S monitor used) from an initial 25-ppm concentration. Additionally, Al2O3 and TiO2, which were previously found to be effective for NH3, were able to reduce the concentration of H2S by 57% and 13%, respectively. Further tests will be conducted to test the impact of various nanoparticles on other target gases and on the actual gas mixtures emitted from swine slurry. In addition to air filtration, other deployment techniques such as mixing of the nanoparticles with slurry and dispersion of the particles to treat the emitted gas will also be evaluated. Additional room-scale tests will be conducted to ensure that the nanoparticles proven to be effective in controlling the gas emissions can be used safely in swine barns in a cost-effective manner. Reducing energy costs in swine barns (B. Predicala, J. Patience, E. Navia; funded by the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) Program) The overall objective of this project is to reduce energy costs in swine operations in order to reduce overall production costs. With energy costs rising on a global basis, the ability to produce pork with lower energy inputs could represent a significant competitive advantage to our industry, particularly with respect to our main global competitors, which are typically dependent on intensive energy inputs. Current estimates of utility costs (gas and electricity) indicate that they range from about $6-10 per pig sold on a farrow-to-finish basis and thus are the third largest variable cost, after feed and labour. However, there is a need to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of actual energy use in typical swine production facilities in western Canada to be able to establish a relevant benchmark on current energy cost per pig sold and to identify the energy intensive tasks in barns and potential areas for improvement. This project will be conducted in four phases. Currently, the first phase is on-going which involves a survey of a representative sample of different types of swine operations to gather baseline information on current energy usage. A series of energy audits of selected facilities will be done over winter and summer seasons to validate the survey results, to assess the relationship of level of energy input to overall productivity of the operation and indoor air quality, and to document current management practices for efficient energy utilization. The second phase will involve the assessment of the impact of different energy-saving strategies on overall energy costs using computer simulation. Using information gathered from the survey and from barn audits, a computer model will be set up to enable us to conduct a thorough evaluation of various energy-conservation measures in a cost-effective manner without having to apply and test each measure in an actual set-up. In subsequent phase of the project, the most promising measures based on the results of the simulation phase will be selected and applied in an actual swine barn to demonstrate their actual impact on total energy costs. The fourth phase will involve the development of a user-friendly software tool for use by pork producers to evaluate current energy use in their own facilities, and to help in the decision making process on adopting specific energy conservation measures appropriate for their operations. Assessment of an alternative swine grow-out facility (B. Predicala, J. Patience, H. Gonyou; funded by the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) Program and the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board) Barn construction and capitalization represent a significant percentage of the cost of producing a market hog. Furthermore, because of the current construction environment in western Canada, this cost component can be a major disadvantage to our industry, especially with respect to our main global competitors. Additionally, barn design and construction can have a major impact on the operation and management of the barn, thus significantly influencing the performance of animals and the general work environment for barn workers. Hence, a newly- constructed grow-out facility using non-conventional, low-cost building techniques presents a valuable opportunity to closely investigate a means for reducing capital costs, while documenting as well its impact on overall productivity, and other operational aspects that could be affected. The overall objective of this work is to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the economic and operational aspects of building and operating a non-conventional confinement barn constructed using low-cost building methods and materials. The main approach of this work is to assess and monitor different parameters and various aspects of the operation that may likely be impacted by the difference in building construction approach, relative to a conventional barn. Additionally, any new costs or benefits and operational requirements unique to these swine housing units will also be documented. This work will be divided into different modules, each dealing with a different aspect of the operation. The different modules include: 1. capital costs, 2. productivity and operational efficiency 3. environment and manure management, 4. animal welfare and handling, and 5. economic and feasibility analysis. Each module will be implemented as a sub-project, with its own protocols developed to meet the specific module objectives. The timeline for each module would include baseline data gathering for the initial year of operation, analysis of the data to identify strengths and weaknesses of the system, development of improvement measures whenever appropriate, implementation of those measures, and subsequent monitoring of the impact on the parameters within the scope of the module. Current activities for this project include the setting up of the environmental monitoring system in the barn, and collection of data on the construction of the barn units and on the performance of the first batch of pigs. Expected activities and Project completion All these on-going studies are multi-year projects, thus, results from the activities over the coming year will be reported in subsequent Annual Research Reports. The bench-scale tests on evaluating various types of nanoparticles and deployment techniques will be completed next year, as well as the benchmark survey and energy audits for the energy cost reduction project. Over the next year, data on several room turns in the low-cost barn units will be collected. Combined with the data on barn construction and operation costs, this will enable us to make a preliminary assessment of the overall performance of the operation.

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