Simple Steps to Reduce Energy Costs for Broiler Growers

Simple steps can significantly reduce energy costs for broiler growers, says the Poultry Science Association.
calendar icon 3 January 2011
clock icon 5 minute read

Because energy expenses comprise the single largest item of a broiler grower's variable costs, reducing energy usage is an important means of improving net returns. A recent bulletin from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension identifies a number of straightforward measures that growers can implement to help bring down utility expenses, according to the Poultry Science Association (PSA).

According to the bulletin, heating fuel and electricity costs account for almost 60 per cent of a typical contract broiler grower's variable production costs. Dr Brian Fairchild, a University of Georgia Extension poultry scientist and one of the authors of the bulletin, notes that rising energy costs over the last decade have contributed to the need for growers to find more energy efficient means of heating and cooling their poultry houses.

"Contract growers recently have seen a considerable increase in the prices they pay for fuel and electricity. So there's been a big push in the last six or seven years to conserve energy in broiler live production. The trick, however, is to do so without turning down the thermostat in the broiler house. Fortunately, almost everything we've done to reduce energy costs has also helped to actually improve the environment for the birds," said Dr Fairchild.

Energy Efficiency of Solid-Wall versus Curtain-Sided Houses

In recent years, there has been a trend toward solid wall construction for newer broiler houses. While there is little difference, according to the bulletin, in electrical cost data between solid- and curtain-wall houses, there is a significant difference in the usage of heating fuel, with solid-wall houses consuming considerably less propane. In a study conducted by the authors, solid-wall houses used 0.0265 gallons per square foot per flock versus 0.0361 gallons for curtain houses. This translates into an annual average savings for a solid-wall house of more than $2,100 per 20,000 square feet of housing space.

The bulletin notes that rising fuel prices have further "encouraged producers to weatherproof and tighten houses to conserve energy."

Electrical Usage Tips

While the ranges of electrical cost data between the two housing types are similar, there is, within each type, a wide range of annual electrical costs. For example, in curtain-sided houses, annual electrical costs ranged from $1,620 to $5,148 per 20,000 square feet. Solid-wall houses showed a similar range. Even with other possible factors taken into account for variability in electrical usage, it was clear, say the authors, that "regardless of house type and growing conditions, [for] growers with electrical usages toward the high end of the range, it is highly likely [they] can improve their bottom line profitability by improving their ventilation methods."

The authors suggest that growers can reduce electrical usage in their houses by taking the following steps:

  • Clean fans, shutters and screens, to help reduce the static pressure that fans are working against
  • Replace burned out motors with energy efficient motors
  • Perform routine cleaning and maintenance on evaporative cooling pads – to reduce the static pressure that tunnel fans are working against
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient bulbs (but make sure that light intensity requirements are met. Many of the more energy-efficient bulbs do not produce the same amount of lumens or distribute light across the house in the same manner as incandescent light bulbs do)

Fuel Usage Tips

Similarly, while solid-wall houses are more efficient than curtained houses, both can benefit from taking steps to maximise the benefit of the fuel used. Among the measures the authors recommend are the following:

  • minimise air leakage
  • conduct regular static pressure tests – low static pressure is an indication that air is leaking through cracks and holes
  • use appropriate circulation fans – in winter, using fans to move warmer air towards the floor has the effect of "improving air temperatures at bird level and increasing litter drying while reducing heater operation time"
  • install insulated tunnel doors – to help reduce heat loss near evaporative cooling pads. This step alone, say the authors, can help reduce fuel costs by 10 per cent or more
  • deploy migration fences – while normally used as a hot weather management tool, keeping birds spread out through the use of migration fences in the winter enables growers to use "bird heat to minimise heater operation time", thus reducing energy usage and preventing overcrowding of birds.

"By consistently practicing good energy management, broiler growers have the potential to significantly improve their energy usage and pare back utility costs," said Dr Fairchild.

In addition to publishing information on poultry housing and energy conservation, Dr Fairchild and one of his fellow co-authors of the bulletin, Dr Michael Czarick, a University of Georgia Extension agricultural engineer, conduct poultry ventilation workshops twice a year to help spread the word about the positive impact of good energy conservation practices on broiler live production returns.

For information on the workshops, click here.

January 2011

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