Technology and assessment techniques for swine farrowing facility management

Smith, Benjamin
Major Professor
Brett C. Ramirez
Committee Member
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

The US swine industry faces numerous challenges in farrowing facilities that can be augmented with technology to improve production and labor efficiency. This dissertation focuses on technology and assessment techniques targeting critical areas in a farrowing facility. The objectives of this dissertation were: 1) evaluate the impact of a novel creep area heat source in a farrowing room at a pilot scale, 2) develop a laboratory for conducting animal thermal environment studies, 3) develop a thermal balance model for piglet microclimate and assessment technique for different microclimates, 4) develop a thermal performance metric and testing method for direct gas-fired circulating heaters, and 5) develop three factsheets on technical issues related to facilities and equipment. The results for objective 1 showed that the novel creep area heat source provided a better thermal environment and reduced pre-wean mortality. For objective 2, the animal thermal environment interaction laboratory was developed for the specific goal of conducting precision livestock farming research involving thermal environment modification. The results for objective 3 demonstrated common supplemental heat sources (heat lamp and heat mat) could meet the piglets’ thermal needs. However, the novel creep area heat source has some advantages in maintaining a more consistent and predictable thermal environment. In objective 4, the thermal performance testing system was developed and evaluated on three heaters, though the uncertainty is high in the thermal efficiency calculations from test data. For objective 5, two factsheets were developed about air filtration systems and a third on common barn maintenance tasks. This dissertation provides information and assessment techniques to address challenges in the farrowing facility.