Back pain can be caused by many factors and can affect anyone, young or old. Farmers are especially at risk because work done on the farm can include activities that are factors for developing back pain. Some risk factors for developing back pain include:
- Lifting objects heavier than 25 pounds or repeatedly lifting lighter objects,
- Awkward body posture while working
- Driving farm equipment for long periods of time that cause your whole body to vibrate,
- Slips and fall
What can be done to help reduce the risk of having back pain? There are some easy steps to remember to help reduce the likelihood of spending the next few days in pain.
Start by recognizing high-risk activities. Are you spending an extraordinary amount of time in equipment? Are you lifting awkward or heavy loads? Is there a tripping hazard that could lead to a fall? Once you realize that there could be a potential for creating back pain, take some steps to help yourself.
- Avoid prolonged, repetitive tasks (ask somebody to help out and take turns)
- Practice good lifting hygiene (use your legs)
- Alternate between heavy and light work tasks
- Take frequent rest breaks
- Before starting a task, consider how it could be done differently.
- Address tripping hazards
If you’re back pain doesn’t resolve itself or is unbearable, seek the advice of a doctor or other medical professional. Don’t ignore the pain and hope it goes away. Medical treatment and rehabilitation may enable you to continue working and functioning. By addressing the issue, you could prevent further pain.
For more information about farm safety, visit the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association website at www.casa-acsa.ca.
The story behind the Ontario Fuel Safety Program Advisory
Have you gotten a notice about unvented heaters in your poultry barns and wondered what it meant?
Dan Ward is an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) engineer out of the Stratford, Ont. office. Because of what he called a “random” inspection at a job site, Ward says flags were raised about how the unvented heating systems were being operated in barns.
The Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) is a private company delegated by the province of Ontario to enforce Natural Gas and Propane Installation Code. One day in 2011 a TSSA inspector happened to drop by a jobsite for an impromptu visit but was allowed look around a turkey barn under construction where unvented gas heating equipment was being installed. A few deficiencies with the equipment and the installation were identified that needed to be addressed to bring them into compliance with Gas Code or the inspector could shut off the gas to
The farmer was irate, said Ward. He had birds coming in; there were timelines, but four months later he was still trying to negotiate a solution. What’s wrong with my heaters, he was asking? He had three types of unvented heaters in his various barns and these were the same type of heaters commonly used in the Ontario poultry industry, so why were they not good enough now?
It turns out his question opened a can of worms.
But first, a bit of background: the Natural Gas and Propane Installation Code CSA-B149.1 is the technical document describing requirements for the safe installation and operation of gas appliances. It’s a national document that is adapted by each province and addresses details like the separation distance between a heating appliance and combustibles, the venting of the products of combustion, gas shutoffs, etc. Only approved appliances - those bearing the required certification sticker from the Canadian Standards Authority (CSA) or Underwriter Laboratories of Canada (ULC) - may be installed under the Gas Code.
The code also states that unvented infrared heaters shall be provided with mechanical ventilation to remove the products of combustion outdoors, primarily CO2 and water vapour, with a ventilation volume of at least 300 cfm per 100,000 Btuh of heater capacity. The ventilation system also needs to be interlocked with the heater(s) so that the heater(s) automatically shuts off or won’t start unless the fan is running.
Where it is not possible to interlock heaters, section 7.22.2 describes the use of a carbon dioxide detector equipped with an audible and visual alarm. While Ward says this is possible, in his experience it is neither common nor necessarily reliable inside the challenging barn environment.
When located in a large and adequately ventilated space, section 8.24.5 states that an appliance may be operated by discharging the combustion products directly into the space, subject to the approval of the authority having jurisdiction (this is the TSSA in Ontario) and provided the maximum input of the appliance does not exceed 20 Btuh/cubic foot of the space in which the appliance is located. This clause attempts to put an upper limit of the size of the heater for the space.
There are three types of unvented heating appliances commonly used in poultry barns and none are interlocked with the ventilation system as per the code requirements. The unvented infrared brooder heater does not vent outdoors and is common in poultry barns. The direct-fired box heater, common in both poultry and swine barns, draws air for combustion from either inside or outside the building and discharges all products of combustion into the barn. The stationary infrared tube heater pulls air for combustion from outdoors and could be vented outside but many are not.
The 2011 site visit incident uncovered several unvented heater infractions. The first problem was that there was no mandatory interlock between heaters and ventilation fans. The second issue was that the minimum ventilation rate would not be met during the initial brooding period due to ventilation settings. Some of the heaters were also missing the proper certification stickers.
A meeting was held with the TSSA to discuss a number of possible solutions to the unvented heater issue for this farmer and the agriculture industry as a whole since it was estimated there could be up to 2,000 barns with this type of equipment in Ontario, mostly for poultry and swine.
The first solution to be brought forward was to vent all heaters outside the barn, which would work for radiant tube heaters but not the box heater or pancake-style brooder heaters, which meant that these would have to be replaced.
A second solution would be to continue to use unvented heaters but that would require each farm to undertake a costly paperwork process to apply for a variance from the TSSA.
A third solution was to actually seek changes to the Gas Code for unvented heaters in livestock and poultry barns. Similar exemptions have been made for the greenhouse industry in the past to allow the use of carbon dioxide generators inside these structures with specific operating requirements.
The focus was on the third solution – an amendment to specifically address the use of unvented heaters inside livestock and poultry barns. Ward says that five commodity groups (Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg & Chick Commission, Ontario Pork and Turkey Farmers of Ontario) came together to hire David Stainrod, a private Gas Code expert, to draft a Gas Code amendment. This document was presented in May 2014 to the Ontario technical committee for review and then taken to the National Gas Code Review committee meeting in Calgary in June 2014.
The amendment was well received at the Ontario technical group, where most discussions are usually around residential applications of the Gas Code, not agricultural. But nationally, the support wasn’t there for the adoption of the amendment. “It put us in a bit of a lurch,” said Ward. On the provincial level though the TSSA was in agreement, they proposed to add the amendment to the Code Adoption Document each province uses to implement the latest version of the National Gas Code.
On Aug. 25, 2014 the TSSA issued a Fuel Safety Program Advisory (FS-212-14) that outlines specific requirements for the use of unvented natural gas or propane heaters in livestock and poultry barns. The requirements came into effect for new heater installations as of Oct. 1, 2014; existing barns have until Jan. 1, 2016 to comply with the new requirements. This is a notice that farmers would likely have received from their commodity boards, said Ward.
If you have an unvented heater, TSSA basically wants third party verification by a licensed Ontario engineer to sign off on barn ventilation system design. Two calculations are required to be posted in a prominent place at the entrance to each barn:
- Minimum ventilation rate of the barn (mechanical or natural ventilation) when the heaters are operating is not less than 300 CFM/100,000 BTUH (0.003 CFM/BTUH) of heaters input (clause 7.36.1c)
- Maximum input of the heating appliances does not exceed 20 BTUH/ft3 of the space in which the appliance is located (clause 7.36.1d)
These calculations will continue to be valid as long as no equipment changes are made to the ventilation system, said Ward, and will affect any barn with unvented heaters.
If farmer hires an engineer to verify the ventilation system as per amendment 7.36.1 for an unvented heater then the farmer is exempt from the requirement of having the mandatory interlock.
The TSSA does have the authority to enter private property to inspect if a safety issue with the gas equipment is suspected, but it is more likely that farmers will be asked by a licensed gas mechanic who may be installing or servicing gas equipment or the fuel supplier to provide the signed calculation sheet for each barn.
The specified ventilation rates are not hard to meet, said Ward, since the minimum ventilation rates to control humidity levels is usually higher than the above rate. The exception maybe in the first day or two of brooding in broiler or turkey barns but this can be addressed by increasing the ventilation rates.
Your other options are to vent your heaters outside if you are using radiant tube style heaters, or hook up a CO2 sensor to your ventilation system.
And what about the farmer at the core of all of this? He was granted a two-year variance to continue operating his barns, said Ward, while an industry solution was developed. He now has the same options as everybody else if he wants to continue to use unvented heaters in his existing barns after Jan.1, 2016.
Efficiency motives Earl Martin. And in his drive to create efficiencies on his beef and poultry farm, he credits his most recent enterprise — installing an on-farm anaerobic biodigester.
Martin first considered installing the biodigester, an innovative approach to solving a problem, as a solution to an on-farm disposal issue. Farming with his two sons, Martin also owns and operates a provincial poultry processing plant, ENS Poultry, outside of Elora, Ont. Since the outbreak of BSE in 2003, costs of disposing offal — or unwanted chicken organs — have skyrocketed, so developing the on-farm biodigester was Martin’s solution to eliminating the expense and recycling the offal. The biodigester also heats the poultry plant, two houses on the farm and generates a profitable revenue stream from hydro.
“It’s a great idea – we take waste products and make a more valuable product,” says Martin, who feeds the biodigester system with poultry offal, cattle manure, waste water from the poultry plant and, based on availability, additional waste products from food manufacturers.
With the ability to generate 100kW of continuous electrical capacity, Martin has been selling power generated from his 500 cubic metre biodigester to the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) for almost three years. He sells the electricity to the OPA and buys back hydro for his own use. “We make a few pennies off every kW we sell,” he says, explaining that despite the additional benefits of the digester, he relies on the hydro revenue stream to pay for the system. Martin expects to have his digester paid off in 10 years, and faster if the system was operating at maximum capacity. The biodigester has only been running an average of 68-70 kW since set up, something that concerns Martin.
Feeding the animal
“Originally, I wanted to get rid of my hydro bill,” says Martin, listing the opportunities of installing an on-farm biodigester. But his expectations of the system grew when he realized how much work it takes to run the boidigester efficiently. Biodigesters need a delicate balance of contents for the bacteria to digest, or break down the products efficiently, creating methane gas. A genset (generator and motor combination) connected to the biodigester converts the methane gas into hydro. Methane gas runs the motor while the generator produces hydro, creating excess heat in the process.
The hydro is sold to the OPA and Martin uses water pipes to carry the heat from the genset system to heat two homes and the farm’s poultry plant. “Feeding the digester is like feeding cattle, it needs a balanced, low-protein diet,” he says. “The difference is cattle will quit eating when they’re full, but the digester never stops, even when it can’t digest something properly, making it sick.”
Martin’s biodigester is “fed” on-farm waste, a mixture that keeps the bacteria healthy and can be easily broken down to produce the desirable gas. Adding additional feed, like natural sugars, can give the bacteria a boost, increasing efficiency and maximizing output. Martin’s biggest headache is sourcing off-farm products to boost the bacteria activity and increase gas and hydro production. Byproducts from food processors are ideal additives to feed the biodigester, but according to Martin, are currently in limited supply.
Without the right balance, or content mixture, the biodigester loses efficiency or kills the bacteria. The vital bacteria can die within 24 hours and take up to 10 days to grow back, resulting in significant downtime and production loss.
“It’s hard for someone to tell you how to run a biodigester, you have to get a feel for it,” says Martin, explaining that, despite, or because of his challenges keeping the biodigester healthy and fed properly, he’s developed a “feel” for the system. Intuition has become part of Martin’s management skills. Even the texture is important, he explains, because, while the consistency doesn’t yield additional gas, keeping the contents of the biodigester flowable is part of an efficient system. Martin uses wash water from the poultry plant to maintain a desirable consistency of the system’s contents, and is pleased with the efficiency of recycling the water into a new product.
The consistency helps produce another benefit, or byproduct, of the biodigester — digestate. Martin’s biodigester produces, on average, 24 cubic metres of digestate daily. A liquid byproduct, the digestate is high in ammonium-nitrate and used as a valuable fertilizer source on Martin’s 400 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. “But it’s still important to take soil samples to check the nutrient value of the digestate,” notes Martin. Digestate hasn’t replaced Martin’s purchase of field crop fertilizer completely, but it has helped reduce input costs.
The popularity of biodigesters is growing throughout Ontario. Innovation and efficiency are developing practical on-farm systems like Martin’s biodigester, and the compounded benefits are proving farmers have a lot to gain. In Martin’s case, he needed to find a way to dispose of a waste product and cut his hydro bill. In addition to achieving his initial needs, he’s been able to eliminate his home and on-farm heating bills, produce his own field crop fertilizer and generate a new revenue stream selling hydro. Martin admits it’s a lot of work, but the pay offs continue adding up.
This article is one in a series produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario.
Regardless of the season and climate, the same factors come into effect when trying to maintain target conditions in poultry barns. Depending on whether your barn is in British Columbia, Ontario, or another country, these factors can figure much differently into your ventilation calculations. Temperature, humidity, and air movement are the three that we’re talking about, and it would be huge progress if we had a climate controller that would truly take all three into consideration to keep conditions ideal. Climate controllers should focus on this in the coming years, taking us into the future of agricultural ventilation.
We hear meteorologists talk about “real feel” temperatures — humidex, or heat index — as well as wind chill in the cooler months. If we think about the inside of a barn as a kind of micro- weather system, we can really see how it impacts the comfort of the birds. For any of us that have spent any time in any of the Gulf States in the U.S. (or the wrong July day in Ontario), even if the temperatures are relatively comfortable — say around 25°C / 77°F — it can feel pretty oppressive when combined with 80 per cent humidity, or even higher as a storm is rolling in. Alternatively, especially in the Western provinces in winter, wind can make the already sub-zero temperatures unbearable, and a little moisture combined with 5°C chills to the bone. I’ve never been colder than the day I was caught riding my motorcycle home in the rain and a temperature drop from 20° C to 8°C.
With the importance of humidity, wind chill, and temperature established, what do we need to do? When it comes to poultry, we know that when the combination of temperature and humidity added together in the barn approaches 160, we are in the danger zone for heat related mortality. Our first line of defense is air exchange — just get the hot air out so the birds can continue to release the BTUs of heat they are generating into the cooler air, and move the moisture they pant (their version of sweating) away. The second is to get that air moving over the birds at a velocity that adds a wind chilling effect to it. In some cases this effect can be 15°F. Our last line of defense is to utilize water to cool even further.
I’ve talked before about a side effect of cooling by evaporative cooling pads or fogging / misting, and the respected ventilation expert; Mike Czarick, has talked about the same problem in his summer ventilation schools. When adding water to the air to reduce the temperature, humidity increases 2.5 per cent for every degree F. The problem here is that a 2.5 per cent humidity increase results in a 0.5 F perceived temperature increase, so we lose half of the ground we seem to gain (this is another case for using the combined calculation to give a true temperature). It would be better to increase air speed, and directly apply water to the birds using a sprinkler system to multiply the wind chill effect and keep humidity 20 per cent lower, according to Yi Liang of the University of Arkansas. I think this sprinkling effect could be incorporated into control systems calculations of wind chill.
So, back to the point, our problem with maintaining ideal conditions is that we are guessing at the actual effect of the changes we are making. OK, it’s clear that reducing the temperature is pretty straightforward, but without knowing the humidity levels, we still have to observe the birds on a hot day to see if they are panting too much or being too inactive, or consuming less feed to tell for sure what that temperature really means. In setting up ventilation and controls, I’ve seen many times where producers didn’t realize that wind chill was too high as well, with young birds huddling, or older birds sitting down due to high tunnel wind speed, leading to breast blister and button problems or hock burn. A controller system that factors these issues in would allow more peace of mind on hot days, especially for farmers who have off farm jobs, are busy cropping, or are managing multiple farms. On cold days, piling that can occur quickly if birds are chilled could also be prevented with a few strategically placed anemometers (wind meters) linked to the controller.
With anemometers, humidity sensors, and temperature sensors working in concert to provide continuous feedback, creating a logarithm to take temperature + humidity – wind chill effect should be an achievable goal that can be used to build a new type of target temperature curve — maybe we call it the wintempumidity curve? Whatever it is, I think it could be a great way to estimate they interaction of all the variables, and create the optimum growing conditions, allowing us to manage the climate without having to do daily tweaks to our ventilation program. If we could establish that, for example, 80 F + 60 per cent humidity - 15 F wind chill at 600 feet / min - 10 F sprinkler effect = 75 F true temperature (this is not necessarily correct, just a potential example), and we can establish a range of acceptable values for our target curve, this could be an excellent way to know how comfortable our birds really are. The controller could adjust all the variables to reach the target if it knows this “true temperature.”
In a perfect world, we’d have a controller that would take the heat index (temperature and humidity), and the effect of wind chill heat loss into its calculations of perceived temperature, and ventilate / heat / cool based on a combination of all of these. It would involve some complex calculations, and a hefty processor, but I think it can be done, and done affordably enough for producers to justify purchasing a system. It just may the next step in the evolution of poultry barn climate control.
Jan. 9, 2014, Ottawa, ON - Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) is starting off the New Year highlighting a new environmental partnership with Bullfrog Power to reduce their emissions footprint.
This partnership is the latest action to be implemented under EFC's Office Green Initiative that aims to reduce the company's environmental impact. By choosing clean, pollution-free energy with Bullfrog Power for its Ottawa office, Egg Farmers of Canada is taking another step to support renewable generation sources while helping to create a cleaner world for the generations to come.
"Being environmentally responsible is a priority at Egg Farmers of Canada and we have a number of different initiatives that help us adapt our behaviours and habits at the office," said Tim Lambert, Chief Executive Officer of EFC. "This new partnership gives us the opportunity to do more and show leadership in this area."
From now on, Bullfrog Power's generators will put 100 per cent green electricity and 100 per cent green natural gas onto the respective energy system to match the amount of electricity and natural gas the EFC office uses.
In the past years, Egg Farmers of Canada has committed through its Office Green Initiative to reduce the amount of paper used daily by opting for online documents instead. The organization also offers filtered tap water, battery recycling programs and uses environmentally friendly cleaning products, among other things.
"The Office Green Initiative goal is to increase environmental awareness within our office, and wherever possible we have taken steps to reduce our environmental impact," added Tim Lambert.
Through this partnership, EFC is supporting the development of Canada's renewable energy sector.
For more details about the Office Green initiative, please visit www.eggfarmers.ca.
In a cold-climate country like Canada, keeping your poultry barn heated is essential, not only to your flock, but also to all the other systems involved in keeping your birds happy and healthy. However, heating your barn can also be very expensive, especially when chicks are first placed in the large area and don’t quite utilize all the space that is available to them.
The Smart Air Wall, developed by the European company Sidijk (www.sidijk.com), can reduce overall heating costs associated with your barn by using an inflatable barrier to temporarily reduce square-footage. This can help lessen not only energy costs, but also the time and effort spent cleaning and walking the barn.
The wall is made of the same plastic used for children’s inflatable bouncing castles in parks and playgrounds, but simply takes a different shape. Sidijk is so reputable in the inflatable plastics business that the company has been retained to install the safety air rails for speed skating in Sochi, Russia, for the upcoming Olympic Games, according to Dave Loerchner, a sales representative for Smart Air Wall.
Loerchner spoke at a Poultry Industry Council event late last year about the possible benefits of the Smart Air Wall system for poultry producers. He began by saying that the wall is simply designed to minimize the amount of barn floor space needed for the chicks, thereby limiting the amount of heat and light needed to operate the whole barn.
“The whole idea of this is to condense your barn for approximately the first two weeks of your flock, when you are usually heating the whole barn to keep the chicks on the floor warm,” he said. “If you move them all up to the front 40 to 50 per cent of your barn . . . it reduces your heating costs by up to 50 to 60 per cent, but will vary slightly from barn to barn.”
The double-lined plastic wall uses a standard 1.1-kilowatt fan on 220 volts to fill it with air, which acts as insulation between the two separated parts of the barn. And because it is plastic, Loerchner adds, it will fit perfectly along the floor and ceiling to make sure that no air (or errant chicks) will get through. In addition, there are flexible holes for feed and water lines that can be adjusted with no risk of air escaping.
While the initial cost can be high, he says that thanks to the cost savings on the heating bill, the Smart Air Wall can pay for itself within a few years.
There are a total of five barns currently using the system: three in Holland, one in Germany and one in Ontario.
Jon Steenbeek, who owns and operates the only Smart Air Wall system in Canada at his Ontario farm just south of Varna, has been using it since his first flock was placed in early 2012. According to Loerchner, Steenbeek used 42,081 litres of propane to heat his barn in one year.
But, with the Smart Air Wall system, Steenbeek only used 18,588 – a savings of almost 60 per cent – or over $10,000, based on a propane price of $0.45 per litre.
“That’s pretty significant dollar savings for only having the wall up for the first two weeks of the flock,” he says.
This month is an ideal time to talk about managing the heating of chicken and turkey barns, although we really should have been thinking about our heating systems before the coldest time of the year was almost at hand. Many of you may already have updated your heating systems to the latest technologies, but there are others who are still using older ceramic heaters or forced-air furnaces. This article will explain some newer concepts in order to clarify and explain the ways new heaters can improve production and reduce costs.
We need our heating system to be able to maintain a steady temperature of 90-95 C on the coldest days of the year at the floor level without a lot of variation in buildings where bird brooding will be done. Obviously, we have more flexibility in turkey finisher barns or breeder and egg layer buildings that will only ever have large or adult birds in them, but many of the same concepts will carry over as well.
Radiant Heating Concept
Whatever you do, be sure to get some infrared heaters, and preferably, infrared tube heaters. Instead of trying to heat the air and blow it around the building, radiant heaters work by, directly exposing a metal surface to a flame to reach temperatures of up to 1100 F. This results in infrared radiation emission, which can pass through air and only releases heat when absorbed by objects or the floor. A reflector is also installed on the top-side of the tube to send all the infrared radiation toward the floor and away from the ceiling. The effect is exactly the same as if the sun were shining into a vehicle, heating up the interior as the energy is absorbed and released as heat and eventually causing the entire vehicle to rise in temperature.
This is a great way to warm a barn because when forced air or other non-radiant methods of heating are used, a large amount of air has to be heated before the floor of the building begins to be heated. Because hot air rises, the hottest air will always be at the ceiling, and, in turn, the coolest air will always fall to the floor. The end result is that the entire barn needs to be heated before the birds feel any of this heat. Not only that, but the exhaust fans will always be pulling the warmer air out, further exasperating the problem.
How do infrared tube heaters fix this?
Because the heat originates from the floor, with the hottest air at or just above the bird level, set temperatures can be slightly lower as. Additionally, the cool incoming air rolls across the ceiling and descends into the hot air, infusing it with oxygen without causing a measurable temperature drop. Utilizing a tube heater will also generate a uniform floor heat signature, even along the length of the heater. In chicken barns, a straight tube heater is usually adequate with only a slight variation in floor temperatures from end to end of about 10-15 F over 40 feet. In a turkey brooding barn, a U-tube should be used because the temperature variation from end to end of the heater can be further reduced to as little as 1-3 F.
In general, a 30-foot U-tube application is about the longest that should be installed, as the flame length is not long or intense enough to reach the end of a longer tube. But, there are some newer heater styles, such as bidirectional centre-fired units and heaters that use two layer tubes to reduce heat transfer in what would usually be the hottest portion of the tube, and metal baffles to increase heat exposure on the end of the tube that would usually be the coolest.
A steady temperature at bird level isn’t the only benefit, as litter conditions are also improved when using infrared tubes.
Because the litter is the first thing being heated by the floor, the moisture evaporates and subsequently improves the quality of the litter, which makes for better birds.
Another benefit of using infrared tubes over stoves or forced-air heaters is that the oxygen from inside the building is not consumed to produce the flame. Fresh-air intakes are installed, pulling air from the outside of the building or from the attic. The intakes differ from other heaters, which require inside air to be combusted. Thus with the infrared tubes, less ventilation is required to keep oxygen levels high.
Here is where the differences really show: fuel savings. According to the website of Easy Radiant Works, a Canadian infrared heater company: “When conventional forced warm air heaters are replaced with infra-red heaters it is commonplace to achieve fuel savings of 30 per cent - 50 per cent. The New York State Inter-Departmental Fuel and Energy Committee have claimed fuel savings as high as 50 per cent since switching to Radiant Tube Heating. Fuel savings of greater than 50 per cent are not uncommon.”
That’s a pretty convincing argument to make the change, even without the other benefits: Preheating of the barn can be accomplished in a few hours instead of one to two days; bottom-up heating and settings can be reduced by a degree or two. Just sit down and calculate how much you spent over the last couple of years on gas. How quickly could you pay for new heaters and then start profiting from these savings?
Most companies say that payback can be attained in as little as two to three years on an infrared heater, an item that can typically last up to 20 years. Not bad.
Like other Canadian industries, the agricultural sector is increasingly focused on adopting “green” practices and technologies to create a more sustainable business environment. However, turning an entire operation into an efficient, productive, environmentally friendly machine involves a significant amount of time, capital and expertise.
Now, researchers at the University of Guelph’s School of Engineering have embarked on an ambitious project that could help many farmers “go green” without breaking the bank.
Partnering with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Poultry Industry Council, Prof. Bill Van Heyst, along with graduate students Stephanie Shaw and Dan Roth, are creating a free computer program they call a Complimentary Energy Decision Support Tool (CEDST) to aid farmers in making more environmentally sound decisions.
More specifically, the software’s goal is to provide easy, immediate access to knowledge about sustainable technologies that are available to farmers, the associated costs, and what technology is best suited to each individual operation.
“We want this program to allow farmers to better direct their capital towards more beneficial green investments, and encourage others to actively pursue environmentally friendly projects,” says Shaw. “A free, one-stop educational tool for this kind of thing will definitely help.”
CEDST works as a multi-fold calculator. By entering information such as location, the size and type of structures present, and what commodities are being farmed, CEDST compiles potential projects designed to green up the operation. It then provides a list of potential costs associated with those options, as well as the prospective amount the farmer might save by investing in them.
For example, whether producers want to generate their own power via a windmill or solar panels, or simply save a little on heating through better insulation, they can easily compare the price tag, return on investment period and eventual cheque size of all possible options.
In its calculations, CEDST takes into account factors such as current material costs, installation and availability of government support for the technology in question.
Ideally, CEDST could also be marketed as a tool for use by non-farmers. The same principles that apply to agriculture for green technology can be applied to other industries as well, and potentially, even homeowners.
“Although the program is being designed specifically with farmers in mind, it could easily be adopted by other groups as a means to save money and the environment,” says Shaw. “After all, farmers are not the only ones who could stand to benefit from going green.”
Matt McIntosh is a student writer with the Students Promoting Academic Research Knowledge (SPARK) program at the University of Guelph
As energy costs continue to rise and the ban on the sale of incandescent light bulbs looms (occurring in 2012), alternative light sources are quickly being adopted by the poultry industry. However, chickens see light differently than we do. Thus the spectrum of light emitted from these new sources must be considered, as it can have an impact the reproductive efficiency and behaviour of chickens.
A lighting option that is quickly gaining popularity is the light emitting diode (LED). Dr. Gregoy Bedecarrats, a professor with the department of animal and poultry science at the University of Guelph, has done some initial studies on LED lighting in laying hens, and found that the spectrum of light emitted may slow or delay the reproductive efficiency of layers. He presented his results at the Poultry Industry Council’s Research Day this past spring.
Chickens and light
Chickens don’t just “see” light. They can absorb light through the retinas in their eyes in ways that humans do not, and they can also sense light through their pineal gland and hypothalamus, which are located on top of and within the brain, respectively. Consequently, chickens can “see” a greater range of light wavelengths than we can.
To activate the receptors in the pineal gland, light needs to penetrate the skull and for the hypothalamus, light needs to penetrate even deeper.
Retinal stimulation impacts behaviour, pineal stimulation affects circadian rhythm and hypothalamus stimulation affects reproduction and homeostasis.
The pineal gland works like a clock to “set” the rhythms between light and dark. For example, if the light-dark cycle is constant, a rooster will crow at the same time every day. But if the light cycle is changed, the rooster will adapt and change the time it crows.
Meanwhile, the hypothalamus is connected to all main physiological functions such as reproduction and feeding. To stimulate the hypothalamus the light has to be powerful enough to penetrate deep, and the red spectrum is powerful enough to do this, says Bedecarrats.
This is important to the poultry farmer because the type of lights may affect the wavelengths emitted and stimulate different areas of the chicken.
For example, green light slows the birds’ maturation and, while red light has been shown to be needed for sexual maturity, it also may be tied to hyperactivity and aggressive behaviour.
In the study, an RGB (red, green, blue) LED system was installed for layer cages, and the effect of wavelength on growth and sexual maturation in blind and sighted Smoky Joe pullets was tested and measured. Smoky Joe hens are a strain of White Leghorn harbouring a recessive mutation causing retinal degeneration. By eight weeks of age, all affected animals are blind. Smoky Joe hens were used to further determine whether or not the retina is involved in mediating the effect of light wavelengths.
The experimental room was partitioned into three independent sections, each equipped with LED lights providing either pure green (G), red (R) or white (W) light. For all groups, intensity was adjusted to 10 lux at hens’ level. At 14 weeks of age, 20 pullets were randomly allocated to each section (G: 11 blind, nine sighted; R: 11 blind, nine sighted; W: 12 blind, eight sighted). During the first week, incandescent lighting was provided (10 lux, eight hours photoperiod) for pullets to adapt to their new environment. At 15 weeks of age, LED lights (G, R and W) were turned on for eight hours and at 20 weeks, pullets were photostimulated by an abrupt change to a 14-hour photoperiod. Feed and water were freely provided throughout the study.
During the study, body weight progressively increased with no difference observed between light treatments or between blind and sighted birds. Similarly, no difference in tibia length was observed, suggesting that, in cages, light wavelength did not impact feeding and body growth.
Age at first egg was significantly advanced for pullets from the red light (165.9±1.3 d) and white light (166.8±1.7 d) groups compared to birds under green light (188.4±2.2 d). However, although no difference in age at first egg was observed between R and W hens, levels of estradiol after photostimulation were the highest for the R birds, suggesting that activation of the ovary and recruitment of follicles was the strongest. Combs from R and W birds were significantly taller than for G birds, again showing advanced sexual maturation.
Overall egg production peaked first for the R group (25 weeks), followed by the W group (26 weeks), while it was not yet reached for the G group at 29 weeks. At 27 weeks of age, total egg production was greatest for the R group (662 eggs; 33.1±1.5 eggs/hen) followed by W group (586 eggs; 30.8±1.2 eggs/hen) and significantly lower for G group (242; 12.7±1.8 eggs/hen). No difference in corticosterone levels was observed between groups before and one week after lights were turned on. However, levels did slightly increase in the R birds after 44 days of exposure, suggesting that longtime exposure to pure red light may be stressful.
“The key message here is that the green really has an impact on reproduction,” says Bedecarrats. Red is required for sexual maturation.
If you have white light that has red within the spectrum, you’re fine. But if you’re lacking the red you’re going to have problems, he says.
In conclusion, although light wavelength did not influence growth of pullets in cages, red light is required for advancing sexual maturation and this effect does not require a functional retina. Using LED lights, the spectrum could be precisely adapted to promote faster sexual maturation and sustained egg production.
Lights are not created equal
Incandescent lights are inexpensive to buy but come with a short life span and because more than 90 per cent of the energy is used to heat a metal filament they use a lot of energy for the light they emit. They are, however, dimmable and instant on, and their spectral peak is in the red at 630 to 780 nanometres.
Fluorescent and compact fluorescent cost more to purchase, but are more energy efficient. The spectrum varies from green to orange, depending upon the fixture.
There are also growing concerns about disposal of fluorescent lights because they contain mercury. “The benefits of energy efficiency might be outpaced by the problem of disposal,” he says.
High-pressure sodium lights are also an option. They are in the yellow to orange spectrum – closer to red – but take longer to warm up and may not be dimmable.
LED lights are still expensive but can create the light spectrum needed with no heat generation. They are instant on and dimmable. They also have great energy efficiency and a long life span.
The next step is to look at what happens on the floor, especially with broiler breeders, for example, with regard to hyperactivity. Something that might be really good in cages might not be good on the floor because of behavioural issues, he says.
What’s needed is to:
- Test light wavelengths on birds maintained on floor (broiler breeders, turkey breeders, aviary systems);
- Test if the positive effects from red light can be achieved by providing bursts (or short-term exposure) during the time of photostimulation;
- Compare optimum LED protocol with other light sources currently used by the industry;
- Test on “commercial strains” in a commercial environment.
The first thing you notice when you step into Richard Yntema’s chicken barn in Enderby, B.C., is the complete absence of brooders. That’s because it relies on geothermal heating and cooling.
“The concept of extracting heat from the earth and putting it back into the earth for storage always fascinated me,” Yntema explains.
It’s a fascination he shares with few other chicken growers, as Yntema’s barn is one of only a handful in Canada to utilize the concept. Yntema says one of the other growers, located in Alberta, does not like his own system, but both he and Jim Croken of Okanagan Geothermal, who designed and built Yntema’s system, blame that on poor design and installation.
“It all comes down to design,” Croken says. “The biggest problem is that there are no standards for the industry. A lot of people doing geothermal either don’t have the expertise or try to cut corners and that gives us all a bad name.”
It is no surprise some people try to cut corners as geothermal systems have a high capital cost. Yntema readily admits his facility cost “seven times” that of a conventional barn. That is not just because of the geothermal system but also because he splurged on every other aspect of the barn, which in itself cost “three times” as much as a wood-frame barn to build.
“You get what you pay for,” he says simply.
Instead of wood frame walls, Yntema’s barn has eight-inch walls, composed of two inches of styrofoam and 5.5 inches of concrete in a plastic liner.
“The walls and floors are mouse-proof and have a 25-year warranty as long as you don’t back into them,” he notes.
The piping for the geothermal system is embedded in both the floor and the walls. Each can be run independently and used to either add heat or extract it from the barn. That ability to both add and remove heat is what separates geothermal from conventional in-floor heating systems.
Yntema heats the barn to 38 C for the day-old chicks, then gradually reduces the temperature over the five weeks the chicken are in the barn. That means switching to a cooling mode for at least the last quarter of the cycle, as by then the birds are generating more heat than they require. At the end of the cycle, the floor temperature is down to 18 and the barn temperature is at 21.
“The temperature is uniform throughout. Even on day 1, the chicks are spread throughout the barn, as there’s no cold spot anywhere,” Yntema notes.
He still has a few vents but their only purpose is to “bring in enough fresh air for life support. We don’t ventilate at all for the first two weeks.”
“There is a huge difference in geothermal cooling. Other farmers are pushing cool air into the barn; we are sucking heat out,” Croken explains.
The system does require different management than a conventional heating/cooling system. There is no instant heat or instant cooling as conventional farmers can achieve these effects by either turning on the gas or turning on the tunnel ventilation. Instead, Yntema starts the system 10 days in advance of receiving chicks so it is up to the required temperature when they arrive, then keeps his eye on weather forecasts and adjusts the system to ensure the barn will maintain the required temperature even with dramatic increases or decreases in the outside temperature. This is helped by the fact the heavily insulated, white-sided barn takes much longer to lose its heat or its coolness, as the case may be, than a typical barn – one reason Yntema experiences few, if any, losses during a heat wave.
The geothermal system, which is also used to run the coolers in Yntema’s on-farm game meat processing plant, includes four heat exchangers that extract or dispel heat through piping buried in 26 250-foot trenches spread around the 50-acre property. The heat recovery units have an automatic wash cycle that sprays water onto the unit for 1.5 minutes every hour they are in use to ensure the intakes do not clog. Although the initial costs were high, Yntema is convinced of the system’s value.
“You get happier chickens, you use less energy, less bedding and less feed, you do less maintenance and cleanout is much quicker.
My heating costs are the same in summer and winter. My costs are actually higher in the summer when I have to pull more heat out,” he states.
Because the in-floor heating keeps the litter dry, there is no ammonia in the barn and the chicken develop no breast blisters.
Although dry litter may result in slightly more dust, Yntema insists, “I would pick dust over ammonia any day.”
Yntema’s barn is only 125 by 40 feet and houses only 6-7,000 birds, which his wife received on the new entrant program. However, he sees no reason the system would not work equally well in a barn “five times as big.”
Nor does he regret his decision.
“I have run 16 batches of chickens through the barn and maintenance is practically non-existent. It still takes me just three hours to clean out the barn and the floor still has no stains on it. If I would get more quota, I would build another barn just like this because I know it works. I’ll still have something in 15 years when other farmers will be looking at rebuilding.”
August 5, 2011 - This is the first book to be dedicated to the lighting of poultry. The first section deals with the science of lighting and how poultry respond to light, and the second section describes the practical approach to lighting for growing pullets, laying hens, broiler breeders, broilers, breeding and growing turkeys, ducks and geese, and is written in a user-friendly style.|READ MORE
Raising broilers on the Prairies can be a challenge, especially when dealing with temperatures of plus 40 C in summer to minus 40 C in winter.
When you’re faced with an 80-degree difference in temperature from the depths of winter to the peak of summer it can be a real test.
But it is a challenge Bruce and Sandy Hillman took on when they started A + Insulation four years ago.
It all began when a Saskatchewan broiler producer was getting quotes on topping up his attic insulation and encouraged Bruce to get into the business. Seeing there was a demand in the many aging broiler barns, they decided to seize the opportunity.
Based in the Edmonton area, they travel as far east as Saskatoon and as far as south as Lethbridge installing insulation in new and old barns.
Initially the business’s focus was on the most critical area – the attics. “Our initial concentration was on attics since 60 per cent of heat loss is through the ceiling. Many of the attics need topping up either because the original R-value is no longer sufficient for the present-day energy costs, or settling has occurred to the point where it is no longer adequate,” he said.
For attic insulation they use a cellulose product made by North Star Fibre.
But insulating doesn’t stop with insulation. “In doing a job we will quite often find the ventilation in the attic is lacking, which not only can cause condensation (wood and insulation damage), but in the summer can cause additional stress on the birds as the heat has nowhere to escape,” he said.
But they also sometimes see the other extreme: very open attics. Sometimes they are so open the wind gets in and may be causing a disturbance to the layer of insulation.
“Snow may be drifting in, and in some cases wild birds are actually able to enter and reside in the attic,” he said.
To deal with the weather Hillman said he recommends R50 for the attics. He said R40 is still a common figure for an attic but R50 offers much more protection at little extra cost.
“Even federal housing programs will not accept less than R50 and as I remind the producer a residential house has nowhere near the heating or cooling load required for a poultry barn winter or summer,” he said.
He added that sometimes insulating a new barn at 40 degrees below zero just days before chicks are to arrive is the best way to convince a farmer how much he can save by adding a little more insulation. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to weigh out the cost of heating a barn for 20 years over the cost of additional insulation up front,” he said.
Another area of concentration is the walls. “Being around broiler production for the past 30 years, I have seen numerous problems and issues with different types of barn construction.”
“It’s not uncommon to remove metal from the outside of an older barn and find the insulation virtually destroyed by rodents and bugs,” he said.
The solution is to reinsulate with the right insulation. They dense fill with cellulose insulation, which blows into every nook and cranny and is resistant to mice and bugs. An average 2 x 6 wall will end up with R20, and if strapped with 2 x 4’s, will insulate at about R25.
Many older barns built on the Prairies do not have plywood sheeting or house wrap. Not only does this allow for bugs and rodents, but also for unwanted airflow. This can reduce the R-value of any product that allows easy passage of air, such as the most common insulation – fibreglass batts, he said.
|The solution is to reinsulate with the right insulation. dense filling with cellulose insulation blows into every nook and cranny and is resistant to mice and bugs.
Cellulose insulation allows less air movement, is more fire resistant and resists bugs and rodents. “I can’t stress how important it is to not only choose enough insulation, but one that is going to stand up to the conditions of the environment,” he said.
“Having proper insulation can save the poultry producer money and lot of headaches down the road,” he said.
It’s also important to pay some attention to the state of the insulation. “Insulation is usually out of sight and out of mind, but I would encourage producers to take a peek in their attic once in a while,” he said.
Producers should look for any sign of wet insulation and for good ventilation (but not to the point where the wind is disturbing the insulation). If there isn’t a minimum of R40 or about one foot of loose fill insulation, they might want to top it up.
As for walls, moisture on the inside or frost on the outside is a sign something may not be right. Laser thermometers for checking the floor temperature are also very handy for checking for cold spots on the wall, he said.
Anywhere augers or pipes come through the walls seems to be a prime spot for rodent or bug infestation. If the insulation is still intact, make sure any holes are filled with foam or silicone to discourage potential invaders.
March 16, 2011 – BC Farmers will soon have new tools to help them identify potential energy savings and tap into green energy revenue streams thanks to support from the Government of Canada and other industry partners. An investment of over $122,000 was announced by Member of Parliament Ed Fast (Abbotsford) at the British Columbia Agriculture Council's (BCAC) annual general meeting.
"Farmers understand the importance of running their businesses efficiently and sustainably," said MP Fast on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "Through this investment, the Government of Canada is helping farmers save on energy costs and adopt new technologies that diversify revenue and reduce potential environmental impacts."
Garnet Etsell, Chair of BCAC and an Abbotsford area turkey farmer, said farmers will "see not only where they could cut energy costs, but also whether they can further improve their bottom line and their sustainability by using an anaerobic digester."
This investment will be used for two projects:
* $36,520 for Phase II of the BC Farm Energy Assessment Pilot Project, led by BCAC's Climate Action Initiative, will expand upon a tool for identifying potential on-farm energy savings. This project will: develop a module to evaluate clean energy opportunities on BC farms; incorporate a broader range of commodities; facilitate access to energy assessments; improve knowledge and information regarding commodity and region-specific energy and fuel issues; and communicate the potential benefits of implementing energy efficiency measures through the development of case studies.
* $86,000 towards Benchmarking Anaerobic Digestion Feasibility across BC's Agriculture and Agri-Food Sector, led by the BC Agricultural Research and Development Corporation (ARDCorp), to help turn on-farm challenges into revenue streams that support the sector's economic viability and environmental sustainability. This project seeks to: determine the feasibility of installing anaerobic digestion systems on demographically and geographically diverse agriculture and agri-food operations in BC; facilitate implementation of these digestion systems by providing technical, economic and logistical benchmarks; and provide revenue stream estimates to meet return on investment targets.
Founded in 1997, BCAC is an umbrella organization that aims to provide leadership and to take initiative in representing, promoting and advocating the collective interests of farmers and ranchers across the province. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the BCAC, ARDCorp administers a number of programs and projects that help secure the long-term sustainability of farmers and ranchers in BC.
"We're proud to have partnered with the BC Agriculture Council to develop the Climate Change Action Plan, which provides the BC agriculture industry with the necessary strategies to meet the challenges of climate change," said Peter Donkers, executive director of the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. (IAF). "Flowing from this plan, these projects will help farmers address climate and energy issues without sacrificing their economic viability."
The investments are delivered through the Government of Canada's $163-million Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program that aims to help the Canadian agricultural sector adapt and remain competitive. In British Columbia, CAAP is delivered by the IAF. Additional support is provided by Terasen Gas, BC Hydro, the BC Ministry of Agriculture, the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, and producers.
For more information on CAAP, please visit www.agr.gc.ca/caap. To learn more about the IAF, please visit www.iafbc.com.
As I walked across the parking lot the raw northeast wind poked and prodded. Icy needles bit deep.
But walking through a door and into a truck garage the size of a poultry barn, albeit higher, changed all that. It was suddenly warm. The temperature had to be 20 to 25 degrees higher than the raw, bitter day outside.
Looking around, there wasn’t a heater in sight. There were, however, lots of doors. Mounted sideways on the walls and ceiling, these doors weren’t for going in and out: they were insulated cladding inside the garage.
The walk across the parking lot and into the garage was as effective a demonstration of the benefits of insulation as can be imagined. It was practical and persuasive. The walk was worth thousands of words.
That the garage was so well insulated shouldn’t have been a surprise – it is located at Insta-Insulation’s head office just north of Boston, Ont.
Herman Schuts, the founder and president of Insta-Insulation, is a walking encyclopedia on the effectiveness and efficacy of insulation. While most Canadians know the necessity of insulating to take the sting out of winter, fewer recognize the benefits and necessity of insulating against the summer heat.
Cutting energy demand and heating costs in winter is usually top of mind. What is too often given shorter shrift is that insulation, particularly in poultry barns, also works in the summer by keeping heat out of the barns.
But that mindset is changing. Art Kloosterman, of Agro Design Ltd., recently designed four new barns in Eastern Ontario that have insulated floors – a feature that is sometimes overlooked - for winter protection but also have R-50 in the attics.
“It was a no-brainer,” Kloosterman said.
The insulation in the floors is “amazing.” It keeps the litter drier, the birds healthier and saves energy and money. The R-50 insulation in the attic really works in the summer by keeping intense summer heat off the birds and eases the load on the ventilation system, which saves electricity and money.
Cutting energy costs has become increasingly important, he said, as the cost of electricity and propane has risen. With energy costs expected to continue to rise, steps to reduce energy use are becoming commonplace.
He said that enhancing the attic insulation from a more typical R30 or R40 to R50 was inexpensive and is “a good step.”
Kloosterman, who designs barns for a living, is a big believer in the benefits of insulation and increasingly so are the farmers he works for.
For Schuts the proof is, as they say, in the pudding.
“Poultry growers that insulated properly save money on heating; reduce bird crowding; and realize a healthier environment with reduced ammonia levels – all of which means improved yield and attractive payback on investment,” he said.
“The most efficient furnace is one that doesn’t come on,” he said.
Insta-Insulation specializes in insulated floor panels, Walltite spray-in-place polyurethane foam insulation and blown cellulose insulation for attic and wall injection projects.
The floor panels are unique and make creative use of insulated doors or parts of insulated doors. When companies build insulated doors for homes, businesses or garages they are one piece. If a customer wants windows in the doors the material is cut out to create a space for the window. The result is a beautiful door, but also an insulated panel, which from the door company’s perspective is a leftover. Insta-Insulation obtains the leftover panels and shapes them for use in floors.
The one-and-three-quarter-inch polyurethane foam panels, which come enclosed in either steel or fibreglass, have an R-12 insulation rating. The panels are covered by the concrete slab and provide immediate benefits including reduced heating costs, more comfort for the birds, lower mortality, lower maintenance costs, and better feed conversion.
Schuts says he has never met an unsatisfied poultry customer. His company’s installation of well over 10 million square feet of panel floor insulation, as well as research, can back up his claim.
Research has shown a three- to five-cent difference per kilogram of production between barns with insulated floors and barns without floor insulation. With a four-cent difference between the insulated and uninsulated barns the difference can be almost $10,000 a year (see sidebar).
Meanwhile, the Walltite spray-in-place insulation creates a gap-free, airtight seal that is resistant to moisture, sealing any cracks or crevices that cold or warm air could travel through. It also eliminates the need for a plastic vapour barrier.
The blown insulation is a recycled product that offers air barrier qualities because it is tighter and has a high R-value. An additional and important benefit for poultry farmers is that “rodents don’t like blown cellulose,” said Schuts.
Heat follows cold
Schuts says the key to understanding insulation is that “heat follows cold.” If the floor is cold, heat will rush towards it, and in an uninsulated floor the heat will move into the ground below. Insulating the floor eliminates this waste of heat.
If there is a cold spot along the wall the heat will head there. In the summer, if the attic is hot the heat will head into the not-quite-so-hot barn.
Poultry farmers shouldn’t stop at just insulating their barns, as important as that is. Farmers should also consider the benefits of properly insulating their homes. Schuts says savings to homeowners can be substantial and, depending on heat source, could amount to thousands of dollars a year with the additional benefit of keeping the house cooler in summer and reducing the cost of air conditioning.
More information about Insta-Insulation is available at www.instainsulation.com .
In the Jan. 13 edition of the New York Times, Steven M. Anderson, a retired army brigadier general, wrote of the benefits of insulation.
Anderson wrote that as the military’s senior logistician in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 he tracked the fuel needed to power the generators providing electricity for air conditioning and other essential uses.
In 2007, an army study found that spraying foam insulation on the exterior of inefficient structures would reduce their energy requirements by more than 80 per cent and improve the quality of life for the troops living in them, he explained in the article.
As a result of that study, the U.S. military spent $95 million insulating inefficient structures. A 2010 study showed this initiative was saving about $1 billion a year and taking more than 11,000 fuel trucks off the road, he noted.
The U.S. military’s payback was more than $10 for every dollar spent.
|Miscellaneous Costs for Sample Broiler Barn
Non-Insulated Floor Insulated Floor – INSTA-PANELS
Heating 5¢ Heating 3¢
Hydro 3¢ Hydro 2¢
Bedding 2¢ Bedding 1¢
Total = 10¢ Total = 6¢
42,000 kg / flock 42,000 kg / flock
Cost = $ 4,200 / flock Cost = $ 2,520 / flock
$24,360 / year $14,616 / year
SAVINGS: $9,744 / year
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