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."
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
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.
Figure 2. Non-uniform heat
distribution creates hot spots causing piglets to pile and avoid lying
under the heat lamp.
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.
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.
Figure 5. Annual Energy
Comparison per Crate: Electric Heat Pad vs. Heat Lamp.
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."