Development of an Energy Conservation Education Program for Iowa’s Livestock and Poultry Industry

Grant # 97-03
Principal Investigator: Jay D. Harmon
Co-Principal Investigators: Hongwei Xin, Steve Hoff, Duane Mangold, Tom Baas, James McKean
Organization: Iowa State University
Technical Area: Efficiency/Information Transfer

Background and Significance:

The livestock and poultry industry in Iowa consumes a great deal of energy each year. Much of this energy is for heating, lighting and running ventilation systems. Ventilation systems, like those used in animal housing, not only use a great deal of electricity to operate, but also expel a great deal of heat from the building as a consequence of moisture control and air quality control. If this system is improperly controlled, energy will be unnecessarily wasted. The problem may also manifest itself in another way. Most farmers understand that the higher the ventilation rate the more fuel for ventilation will be used. Because of this, the tendency is too under-ventilate. While this would have the appearance of saving energy it probably uses even more energy in the long run. This is due to the greater length of time needed for finishing livestock and poultry due to increased health problems associated with poor air quality. Either problem is serious and may cost farmers much more than they ever anticipate. Many times waste occurs because people do not understand principles of ventilation or the controller they are using.

On many occasions, farmers, veterinarians and agribusiness people have requested information from ISU Extension on proper ventilation and energy efficient management, not only to save energy money, but to optimize the production of their livestock. No standard program has existed to help these people to understand the principles of ventilation and to learn how to properly control it. This is the problem that will be addressed by this project.

Farmers are times interested in learning building management skills which will help their productivity. The farmers that are not comfortable with ventilation will ask advice of Extension personnel, feed company representatives, veterinarians and other agribusiness people. Many times these people do not understand ventilation either, but will offer advice based on their experience, which may or may not be well-rounded. Farmers, as well as, agribusiness advisors need training so they can answer questions correctly.

Project Objectives:

The objectives of this project are as follows:

  • Develop and distribute a survey of agribusiness and farmer groups to find out what topics they would be interested in and how long a training period should last.
  • Develop an energy conservation “curriculum”, suitable for day-long training sessions to address the needs of livestock and poultry producers.
  • Compile fact sheets and work sheets to form a reference manual in order to teach energy conservation techniques in livestock housing.
  • Develop classroom demonstration equipment that will help people to understand ventilation control and energy efficient management.
  • Provide a summary experience by having them work through video case studies of summer and winter ventilation problems.
  • Train the seven ISU Extension Agricultural Engineering Field Specialists to assist with dissemination of the educational program through meetings held with veterinary clinics, agribusinesses and ISU Extension.

Conduct at least seven meetings around the state in the second year of the project, using pre- and posttests and evaluations to gauge effectiveness improve future training sessions.

Summary of Work to Date:


In August, a survey was designed to evaluate the topics and method of education that the target audience was interested in. Surveys were mailed to approximately 500 people consisting of agribusiness persons, veterinarians, swine producers, poultry producers and Rural Electric Cooperative personnel. The ranking of the responses appear in Table 1. The highest ranking areas are targeted for educational development first. It was also learned that respondents favored formats of lecture/workshop, video tape and fact sheets/worksheets over other types of formats. Meeting times favored were half day/afternoon sessions or full day sessions. Continuing education credits (CEUs) were of interest to 64% of the respondents with veterinarians showing the most interest (85%).

Fact sheets on ventilation and low cost remodeling alternatives are in various states of completion. Sites and situations for a video tape on troubleshooting of ventilation systems are being developed. Companies have been contacted about purchasing ventilation controllers for use as demonstrations

Work Yet to be Completed:
Development of fact sheets, worksheets and videotapes will continue based on priorities set by responses to the survey. Demonstration materials will be developed further to illustrate specific points. Some of the materials will be used in a course being taught to veterinary students in the spring in order to refine the development. Once development is complete, the program will be marketed to user groups in order to recover the cost of continuing the program.