Energy Use Analysis of Open-Curtain vs. Totally Enclosed Broiler Houses in Northwest Arkansas

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Liang, Yi
Tabler, G.
Watkins, Susan
Xin, Hongwei
Berry, Ivan
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Xin, Hongwei
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Seventeen years of electricity and propane fuel use data collected from broiler production houses at the University of Arkansas Applied Broiler Research Farm (ABRF) in Northwest Arkansas were analyzed to quantify the relative effect of open-curtain versus totally enclosed housing systems on energy use. The ABRF consists of four commercial-scale 12- × 121-m (40-× 400-ft) houses and raises broilers under standard production contracts. After the first 15 years of production with open-curtain system, all houses were converted to the solid-wall enclosed system with drop ceiling, tunnel ventilation, and cooling pads in early 2006. The renovations led to reduction of the overall building heat loss factor (W·K-1) from 1389 to 586 for the two steel-frame houses and from 1022 to 428 for the two wooden-truss houses. Mean outside temperature (ranging from 14.7°C to 17.5°C or 58.5°F to 63.5°F in annual mean temperature during the 17-year period) and bird age were found to be the major factors affecting propane fuel usage and ventilation fan electricity usage. Electricity for ventilation and lighting comprised about 87% of the total electricity usage. Annual electricity usage was 27% higher with the enclosed system than with the open-curtain system (102 vs. 80 kWh per 1000-kg market bird weight or 46.4 vs. 36.4 kWh/1000 lb), due to loss of natural daylight and increased mechanical ventilation in the enclosed system. Propane use was comparable between curtain-sided and solid-wall housing schemes, averaging 76- and 65-L/1000 kg market bird weight (9.1 vs. 7.8 gal/1000 lb) before and after renovation, respectively. Higher fuel cost resulted in higher fuel expenditure for winter heating than electricity expenditure for summer cooling in this region. With increasing energy costs, analysis of energy use, as conducted in this study, will assist the decision making of growers to improve energy efficiency or explore alternative energy application.


This article is from Applied Engineering in Agriculture 25, no. 4 (2009): 577–584.

Thu Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2009