Everyone in confinement livestock production strives to improve air quality in the barn as part of the goal to improve production efficiency. A new production tool that does just that is called electrostatic particle ionization, or EPI.
It’s a technology that releases trillions of negative ions into the animal production airspace. Those ions polarize particles in the air, making them want to attach to a grounded surface. Essentially, the air is scrubbed of dust particles, leading to much-improved air quality inside the barn.
Numerous tests completed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and others over time have shown that you can expect to reduce dust in the air by 50 percent to 80 percent under typical ventilation conditions.
Those studies also have shown a similar reduction of gases (like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide), as these pollutants often attach to and ride with a dust particle.
At this year’s American Association of Swine Veterinarians’ meeting, Chris Rademacher presented results of using EPI technology on pig performance at Murphy-Brown’s Circle-4 Farms production sites in Utah.
The study was conducted on nursery pigs housed in rooms of 2,000 head each. An EPI system was installed in two of those rooms, with two identical rooms set up without an EPI system to serve as control rooms.
The study period ran through five turns of the nurseries and spanned seasonal weather changes.
Once completed, the results showed an average-daily-gain improvement of 12.2 percent, an increase of 9.3 percent in the average weight of pigs leaving the nursery (about 5 pounds heavier) and a mortality rate decline of 26.1 percent. (See the accompanying tables.)
In its payback analysis, Murphy-Brown discounted the data set by 20 percent, to stay on the conservative side, and calculated the cost of production impact that the daily gains had in the nurseries with “EPI air.”
A cost reduction of 36.8 cents per hundredweight was cal culated, taking into account numerous cost factors, such as the additional fuel cost to haul heavier pigs. At 36.8 cents per hundredweight, Murphy-Brown computed that it would take 33.39 weeks, or just over eight months, to get a complete return on investment.
As a result of the study’s high statistical confidence (p<0.001) and strong ROI, Murphy-Brown has committed to installing the EPI-system technology into 655,000 nursery-pig spaces and 864,000 wean-to-finish spaces in its western operations unit. Installations began in December and are progressing well.
Rademacher’s report created much interest among veterinarians at the AASV meeting, and many stopped by Baumgartner Environics, Inc.’s technical table for a visual demonstration of the EPI technology.
BEI accomplished this by simulating a dusty environment in a plastic enclosure that was fitted with the EPI technology inside. When the EPI system was turned on, the simulated dust disappeared within eight seconds.
Many research veterinarians are interested in understanding how EPI air encourages better animal performance. One such study has been commissioned at the University of Manitoba for later this year, to investigate how air transmission of disease might be affected in an EPI-air environment.
In another study in Quebec, EPI-system technology is being used to scrub the air inside a gilt-isolation unit to extend the effective life of fine filters installed to prevent disease emission, primarily porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. Also, these researchers intend to investigate what effect EPI air may have on the viability of the PRRS virus.
Kansas State University is planning to operate EPI-system technology in conjunction with other planned trials, to evaluate what impact EPI air might have on pig performance. The study will run identical trials with and without EPI. Other research efforts also are under discussion. We will keep the industry informed as we learn more from these studies.
Many producers have reacted to the production data and are moving ahead with plans to install EPI-system technology. They plan to conduct their own trials to evaluate performance improvement. Livestock producers in the United States from Minnesota to Texas and North Carolina to California have trials underway in commercial production facilities. In Canada, livestock producers from British Columbia to Quebec are doing the same. The Netherlands, Denmark and Australia also have producers using EPI-system technology on a commercial basis.