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New technology cuts costs and keeps birds warm
By Karen Templeton
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Everyone is looking for ways to save on fuel costs these days, and poultry growers are no exception. Fuel used for heating poultry houses during the cold winter months can be very costly.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and Mississippi State University's poultry science department have explored ways to reduce energy usage and improve energy efficiency in poultry houses.
Jody Purswell, an agricultural engineer with ARS at MSU's Poultry Research Unit, found a new way to keep poultry houses warmer without using more fuel. He determined that the attic space in broiler houses can be used to preheat incoming air to keep the houses warmer.
Purswell found that the attic temperature of broiler houses stays about 6-14 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. By installing attic inlets, the heat is pulled out of the attic and circulated throughout the poultry house, keeping the birds warm without using more gas.
“Initial testing demonstrated that the attic inlet system significantly reduced furnace and brooder usage,” Purswell said. “We found that it can reduce gas heat costs by 20 percent to 25 percent. It is basically getting extra energy for free.”
David Hudson, a poultry grower in Laurel, was one of the first growers in Mississippi to use the new heating system. He worked with Purswell to install the vents in two of his broiler houses.
“The system really helps with keeping the young birds warmer, especially during their first three weeks,” he said. “It has gotten colder earlier this year, so I've already started using the attic inlets to keep the new chicks warm.”
Hudson monitors the attic inlet system carefully and has noted its benefits.
“There is no doubt that I am using less gas to heat the houses,” he said. “And there's definitely better air quality in those two houses. It makes a big difference.”
Purswell's preliminary research also showed that the use of preheated air from the attic can reduce moisture in poultry houses.
“Excessive moisture in the house increases ammonia production,” Purswell said. “We want to look at how the system can be used to inexpensively heat houses between flocks to help dry the litter and reduce the amount of ammonia present when new chicks arrive.”
The poultry industry is talking about the attic ventilation system, according to Michael Kidd, head of poultry science at MSU.
“Dr. Purswell has pioneered the new technology, and we are fortunate to have his expertise here at Mississippi State,” he said.
The research for this new technology has been under way for two years and is still evolving. Purswell plans to work with growers like Hudson to make comparisons between the poultry houses with the system and those without. Purswell and his team will install gas meters in poultry houses to better measure the gas usage.
“The meters will help us make the real world comparisons we need, ” Purswell said. “The technology is still new, but growers are already realizing the system's advantages, and we see more of them using the technology. They are helping us realize additional benefits, which aids in our research moving forward.”