UK specialist gives ventilation verdict on Finnish production systems

Pig producers in Finland have very well-insulated buildings according to Berkshire-based ventilation specialist, Hugh Crabtree, speaking after visiting the country where farmers have to cope with annual temperature extremes ranging from -30C to +30C.

Asked how to ventilate a piggery in the face of such extremes, Mr Crabtree told Finnish farmers that wherever you are geographically you need to follow the basic rules, starting with the biology, what the pig needs, and do the job properly.

In his role as managing director of Farmex, Mr Crabtree recently addressed two pig seminars in the country’s Ostrobothnia region, commenting that Finland’s small but relatively efficient pig industry has, “unsurprisingly”, very well-insulated buildings, achieving ‘U’ values of 0.12 compared with the UK best of 0.36. This is secured through the use of predominantly negative-pressure, controlled-inlet ventilation systems.

As for avoiding under-ventilating houses when the outside temperature is several degrees below zero, he said that the Finns, with plenty of wood to burn, use hot water heating systems.

“They position their heating pipes close to the air inlets to take chill off their incoming air before it drops down on to the pigs,” he said.

“As a further precaution, inlets are adjusted at low ventilation rates so that the air velocity is high enough to penetrate right into the room warming up on the way.”

Occasionally the inlets freeze up due to condensation, the ice acting as efficient glue, added Mr Crabtree. He also said that the farmers he met showed interest in the UK system of monitoring ventilation, which enables the producer to check what is actually happening to the pigs’ environment, from the comfort of their office or home.

“Interestingly,” he added, “by law in Finland, only one-third of the floors for growing pigs is slatted, with a further third free-draining solid and the remaining area solid, too.”

He also reported that the Finnish approach was producing good results with the national herd having a “very high health status” with all farms being certified salmonella-free.

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