Sustainability strategies

How could they work for you?
Nora Wolske
June 08, 2018
By Nora Wolske
Are you truly running an energy efficient operation? Are the products you are using in your barn decreasing your carbon footprint? Pictured is a heat exchanger.
Are you truly running an energy efficient operation? Are the products you are using in your barn decreasing your carbon footprint? Pictured is a heat exchanger. Photo credit: CANARM AGSYSTEMS
Sustainability has been a topic of discussion globally for quite some time now. It is a term that we have all heard, but what exactly does it mean? How can we responsibly apply this concept to the poultry industry from the ground up?
This goal of sustainability forces us to think of the bigger picture, to think globally. However, some of the biggest impacts to sustainability are found on-farm at the producer level.

Social conscience and the animal rights and welfare mindset of the consumer is growing. We as an industry are well aware that the consumer dictates the product and how it is raised.

It is, however, important that those of us who are in the business of putting animal protein on the dinner table take responsibility to educate the consumer. As an industry we need to assess our practices and stand proud of the care that is taken when providing the consumer with the ever-traditional and important holiday turkey.

At the fifth annual Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit at the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) in January 2015, Bryan Weech, director of Livestock for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), explained that the key to utilise resources is to provide for future generations because we are currently consuming one-and-a-half times this planet’s resources.

The population is growing and we have to become more efficient and effective at feeding this number using no more resources than we use today. A lot of the population growth will be urban, removing the consumer further and further away from the farm.

Therefore, we need to educate the public on common on-farm practices. While we need to educate today’s consumer, it is just as important to educate future generations – from kindergarten to graduate school – to ensure that our industry continues to be sustainable for decades to come.

Action items
So, what are the things that modern poultry producers do to ensure that they remain sustainable and globally conscious?

There has been much talk of energy efficiency. Saving energy not only reduces your hydro bill, it also decreases your carbon footprint, which has a major global impact. For earth to be sustainable at the global level, everyone must assume responsibility and be accountable for their influence on this planet.

It is important that producers make good economic decisions so they can ensure that their business is not only profitable, but that they can reinvest into the business using efficient and effective modes of management.

But what is energy efficient? For a product to be energy efficient, it must use less energy to provide the same result. Products that boast to be energy efficient need the research to prove these claims.

Producers need to be conscious of where the source of information is coming from and that it is trustworthy. Are you truly running an energy efficient operation? Are the products you are using in your barn decreasing your carbon footprint?

Consider the LED lighting in your operation. Are the lights engineered to dim efficiently at all dimming levels? If you are unsure, check the specs that are provided to you by your supplier.

Get your local electricians to check the power consumption of the lights on your farm. How they perform on farm can be different from how they perform in the electrically clean environment of the engineering test bench.

Another energy efficient product to help a poultry farm decrease their carbon footprint is a heat exchanger. The premise of a heat exchanger is that it preheats the incoming air with the warm air that is being exhausted.

This helps prevent the continuous down fall of cold drafts on the production. Harnessing the energy that is being expelled into the atmosphere saves you heating costs. If considering incorporating a heat exchanger into your operation, ask yourself the following questions:  Does is use one motor or two? How does it prevent icing up in our northern humid climate?

In short, always verify that the design of the products in your barn are truly energy conscious and are not just being marketed as such. Work with dealers that can recommend products that are new and trending and actually do what they claim.

Embrace technology. Align yourself with partners that understand and support it and who will empower you to be confident in the tools you have purchased to manage your business.  

Big data is a term that has also been thrown around a lot. What does it mean for you and sustainability on your farm? Software packages have been working in conjunction with your ventilation controllers and have been gathering/monitoring data from your farm for years.

Consider that the amount of water needed to produce one chicken from farm-to-table is equivalent to a four-minute shower. Even though it takes less feed input for a chicken to grow today than it did in the past, it still takes the poultry industry a longer time to reach the expected shipping weight relative to other livestock sectors.  

By analyzing these metrics, you can see what is working and what is not and adjust your feed and water consumption to maximize your sustainability and possibly even predict future success or failures.  

In Canada, our unique supply management system allows producers to embrace technology and remain sustainable. The poultry industry over all has taken many steps forward in the last several years to become more sustainable. We must share this knowledge with the world and hope other agricultural sectors learn from it and we all grow together.


Nora Wolske is ventilation products and controls manager for Canarm AgSystems. She has over 18 years of experience working with livestock equipment and ventilation systems.

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