Why the dearth of independent ventilationists?

I’m in absolutely no doubt that worn-out ventilation, in grow-out piggeries especially, is costing pig producers dearly. It’s probably contributing towards 0.4:1 food conversion (from 25-105kg) and more than 100g/day of growth, writes John Gadd.

These systems are worn out because times have been so hard in Britain because of little or no profits, so now is the time to renew the systems and a ventilation engineer is needed to make full use of the very good new technology that has been developed since 2008.

In Britain, we’re fortunate in having pig specialist veterinarians within a reasonable distance. My farm visits here and about 100 conversations with producers suggest that 90% use a specialist vet, with about 46% on a regular visit basis.

The same question asked about a ventilation engineer revealed just 3% were used for breakdown or for installing new equipment. None at all were used on a regular basis. When asked why, producers said “No need”.

Also, most of the “ventilationists” used were installation technicians; very competent on the suppliers’ equipment, but not trained ventilationists – who are a very different animal.

The problem is that with the demand at nil, the supply of ventilationists has just disappeared.

Paradoxically, if outdated forced ventilation gear is costing nearly as much as disease, don’t we need at least one-fifth as many ventilationists as specialist pig vets?

I was fortunate to be around 40 years ago when we had at least six highly trained independent ventilationists in Britain; two of them put me straight and kept me straight on ventilation matters! Canada is the only nation I have visited that still has professional independent ventilationists. The country’s ferociously long winters and short, boiling-hot summers make their skills vital.

All ventilationists work along the same principles:

1. What’s the present system costing in terms of lowered potential performance?

2. What needs to be done to put it right? As many as 60 or more questions need to be asked of the producer as every farm is different.

3. From this information, specifications for the ventilation equipment are established and manufacturers can be contacted to meet the specs – in exactly the same way that the correct feed to use is chosen on daily nutrient intake specifications. If one manufacturer can’t meet the specs, try someone else.

As you can see, the ventilationist is needed more as a consultant than as an installation technician.

Today, such professionals are needed even more than they were in the good old days. We now have a whole new range of sensoring and control systems based on digital bandwidth settings. These need to be set up by an expert who, like in the past, needs to ask many (but not so many) questions of the producer so as to cope with likely eventualities.

From then on, all the guesswork and fiddling with knobs of the past is removed and the system will both monitor and look after itself, with the staff just keeping an eye on the control box. It’s a huge step forward.

The ventilationist also needs to revisit once a year to check on things.

Sounds expensive? Not so. From before-and-after figures I collated on four farms, the payback averaged 11 months, and the Return on Extra Outlay, including the annual check-up cost, was 8:1. Now that’s good value.

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About The Author

John Gadd, who has spent 60 years' involvement in pig production, has had more than 2,800 articles about pigs published and has written three best-selling pig textbooks. With hands-on experience that includes managing a grow-out herd at 1,800ft in Banffshire, Scotland, and 20 years in the allied industries with Boots' Farm Department, RHM Agriculture and Taymix, he set up his own international pig management consultancy in the mid 1980s and has now visited more than 3,000 pig units in 33 countries as a pig management adviser. (Photo courtesy Bournemouth Daily Echo)