Sows largely unaffected by tropical heat thanks to air conditioning

Inno+ Air Inside:
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The Van Dijk-Peters family in Odiliapeel (North Brabant) uses air conditioning from Inno+. During the hottest week of the year it is pleasantly cool indoors and the sows’ feed intake remains high.

Mark van Dijk’s infrared thermometer puts a number on it: it is the hottest week of the year so far, and the temperature of the incoming air in his sow barn is fluctuating between 21 and 22 °C. But even without measuring, you can feel the heat. As soon as the pen door closes, the cool air flows through the ground channels to the sows’ noses. This keeps the room temperature in the farrowing pens below 27 °C, even when – on Friday 26 July 2019 – the KNMI weather station in nearby Volkel records exactly 40 °C.

A warm bed, thanks to air conditioning

In this pen, the first litters of piglets are born. Despite the tropical heat, Van Dijk turns on the heat lamps until the piglets are dry. Mark van Dijk explains, ‘Newborn piglets have little energy reserves. That’s why, despite the heat, I leave the lights on for a while, until the piglets are dry. Then they go out again, straight away.’ The heating in the piglet nests stays on throughout the suckling period. Experience shows that the piglets like to lie on a warm bed.

Pig farm in figures

  • 1,250 (breeding) sows
  • 4,500 fattening pigs
  • 1 export country for all other piglets: Germany
  • 1 megawatt energy production
  • 1 type of terminal sire: Gene Plus
  • 4 employees

Conditioning of incoming air keeps houses cool

At the end of July the air conditioning once again proves to be a blessing for humans and animals. Even when it’s stiflingly hot outside, the livestock houses at the Van Dijk-Peters farm are still quite comfortable. The secret is conditioning of the incoming air, which is done using ‘Geo Balance’ technology from Inno+.

Coils of plastic pipe 42 kilometres long lie at a depth of four metres under the ground. Water is pumped through them continuously. At this depth the temperature is 12 °C all year round. The water in the LDPE pipe cools the incoming house air during the summer period. The air is conditioned by means of four heat exchangers, which are hung on the outer wall. There is one heat exchanger on each corner. Two heat exchangers maintain a constant temperature for the pregnant sows. The other two exchangers ensure a constant climate in the farrowing pens and service pen.

Air conditioning offers many small advantages that together make a big difference

Twelve years’ experience with air conditioning in the houses

The company has twelve years of experience with this form of air conditioning. Van Dijk is still delighted with the technology in the houses, even though the initial investment was €110,000. It seemed a huge amount at the time. ‘I don’t have any figures for you, but I’m convinced the investment has more than paid for itself.’ There are lots of small advantages that together make a difference. Fewer dead sows. The birth weights of the piglets remain more constant throughout the year. The sows feed intake remains higher. The energy advantage: I burn less in the winter and ventilate less in the summer. All things considered, it was a good choice. I make a lot of decisions based on instinct anyway. That was the case here, and I still think it was the right decision.’

Piglet birth weights constant all year round

Van Dijk does have figures that show the more constant piglet weights. As a former top and sub-breeder, he weighed the piglets. The piglets from Dutch sows usually weighed between 1,400 and 1,450 grams, for fourteen live-born piglets. The birth weights dropped in late summer, until he started working with the cooling system. Since then, the birth weights have remained almost constant throughout the year.

This particular Friday the pregnant sows will have it a bit tougher: a heat exchanger is leaking, the pig farmer discovered while loading sows this morning. The floor of the loading bay was not only wet from the sprinkler cooling in the adjacent pen, but also from the leaking heat exchanger. So that one has now been shut off.

Even so, the temperature is still not too bad in the pen with the pregnant sows. They lie next to each other like cigars in a box in the sow stalls, with their noses under the trough, above the air intake. They know exactly where the best spot is.

The cool air flows through the 80-centimetre-high cavity via underground channels to the sows. The cavity is well insulated, so the air does not heat up before it reaches the sows.

When it gets this hot you just hope for the best. Fortunately, there were no disasters.

Heat demands the utmost from people, animals, and climate control technology

The extremely high temperatures at the end of July demand the utmost from people, animals, and climate control technology. Van Dijk is constantly on his guard and goes straight to the farrowing house when he receives a pig house alarm on his mobile phone. ‘You have to be on your guard and close at hand all the time. When it gets this hot you just hope for the best. Fortunately, there were no disasters,’ says the pig farmer.

The next day, a technician comes to replace the leaking element in the heat exchanger. Then everything is back to full capacity. Leaks occur now and then, says Van Dijk. Replacing an element usually takes three hours.

If you would like more information about air conditioning or other climate solutions for your livestock barns, then feel free to contact us here.