Wood-fired Heat for an Alternative Winter Farrowing System

Final Report for FNC04-514

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2004: $2,698.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $3,378.00
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


We want to thank you for the financial support on the project and want you to know that we sincerely appreciate it. I will explain how the changes in the budget come along. I bought the Royall Stove and insulated chimney from my brother after he was diagnosed with cancer of the throat and larynx in Oct. 2004. The stove had been used for three seasons so it was like new. We have used a Royall wood burner in the house for 25 years so we know they are durable. We also had our order wrote up for pipe and ductwork with a sale representative from D.C. Sales Co. when a friend of mine called from McGregor. He said he had bought a house and was removing a very good heating system and replacing it with a parlor type wood burner he wanted simple radiant heat and when asked said he would sell the pipe and ductwork for $200.

There was more 6'pipe and ductwork than we needed in this package, so we traveled to McGregor and bought it. We have included some extra labor for the retrieval of the stove and also for going after the pipe, etc. We have survived on 140 acres for 25 years, because we are constantly looking to get the most products we can for the least cost.

With the money left over from these purchases we experimented with some new ideas- all with good results so far. We insulated a small room that we used for 35 pigs. We used Tek-Foil insulation from Farm Tek of Dyersville, Iowa. The insulation was easy to install and eliminated the drafts in the room. It increased the temperature by 20 degrees so it was a very cost effective method to improve the environment for the pigs. We are going to purchase more and use it in the farrowing room. We also made a sow exit tunnel to help eliminate the draft in the farrowing room. You will note on the chart provided by Ric Exner – Practical Farmers of Iowa Farm Systems Co-coordinator that we have too much temperature fluctuation mainly because of the draft created when the sows exit through the rubber belting on the door. We will install the exit tunnel and report the results at the Niman Ranch Farmer’s meetings. The data shows that we lowered our humidity levels considerably during our Mid- January farrowing, but we need to tighten the room. The data was provided for the SARE funded Research Alliance for Farrowing Project.

We also made a portable sow corral consisting of 2-16’ and 2-10’ heavey duty gates mounted on bridge planks for skids. Many producers use a 3 point crate behind the tractor and lock up to the hut to work the pigs after chasing the sow out. This works, but the sow gets really worked up when the pigs squeal. We now feed the portable corral and position is so she doesn’t hear the pigs squealing. This is stress free for her and much safer for us. Susan Bullet- a field agent for Niman Ranch highly approved the use of the corral at our field day. She reported to us that an Amish man had been severely bitten by an angry sow while working pigs in the pasture.

We hope these ideas can save baby pigs and also save producers from injury and they will be discussed at the Niman Ranch Farmer meetings.

We were not happy with our attempt to pope heat into the pig boxes with drop pipes. The temperature out of the pope was 100 to 115 degrees but the little pigs did not like the air movement in the boxes. We immediately changed it and directed the heat into the entire farrowing room instead. This year we will heat the room only to 45 degrees and our huts inside instead of the open pens. We will utilize the sow’s body heat better and will burn less wood.

This has been a very interesting project in which we have gathered a lot of information that we can pass on to other producers through the Practical Farmer Quarterly and Niman Farmer Meetings.

Project Objectives:

To implement a method of heating a dairy barn that was converted into a winter farrowing house. Project will utilize an outdoor wood burning unit with spark arrested chimney. Heat will be distributed by ductwork and drop pipes. An on-farm woodlot will supply the fuel source.


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  • Pat Menenga


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.