Pork producers are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to raise hogs effectively and efficiently, striving for continuous improvement of the pork industry. To seek out these new and innovative ways, it is essential that research is conducted to better understand what works and what simply doesn’t.

Swine researchers at Kansas State University (KSU) are currently conducting research looking at the use of electrostatic particulate ionization (EPI) air systems in nursery facilities to reduce emissions and dust particles while improving overall pig performance.

EPI Air systems are a patented dust reduction system designed by Baumgartner Environics, Inc. (BEI). Data has shown that using EPI Air systems results in better animal productivity and easier-to-breath air. The systems achieve this by releasing negatively charged ions into the air that cause dust to stick to the first surface they touch (ie. wall, ceilings and floor).

“Our systems reduce emissions from barns and captures, inside the barn, a variety of air pollutants,” said John Baumgartner, president of BEI.

Jon De Jong, KSU swine nutrition graduate research assistant, heard about this research and recognized its importance.

“Our swine group at KSU became interested in the EPI Air systems after reading an article in National Hog Farmer magazine,” De Jong said. “The article highlighted research conducted at Murphy-Brown LLC, and provided a research opportunity that looked promising, so we decided, as a group, to try to bring this research to KSU.”

The previous research conducted at Murphy-Brown LLC, the world’s largest hog producer, consisted of installing EPI Air systems in 194,000 nursery units at their Circle Four commercial operation in Milford, Utah. According to Baumgartner, they made a return on their investment after only 75 days, and showed a reduction in their mortality rate and an increase in average daily gain.

“While research on this system had already been completed at an operation, we wanted to see if BEI would be interested in conducting research in a university setting,” De Jong said. “So, I took the lead on this project and contacted BEI to present the idea of partnering with them to carry out additional research,” De Jong said.

BEI agreed to this proposal, and Baumgartner became one of their key contacts.

“Kansas State University saw a strong application for this technology and moved on it,” Baumgartner said.

As a result, in June of 2012, the KSU swine farm installed two EPI Air systems in two of their nursery barns.

“We have two nursery barns that are exact replica barns that house 200-head each and we installed a system in both of them,” De Jong said. “For each turn of pigs, which is about eight weeks, we rotate the system back and forth, so in one barn it will be on and the other it is off, this way we have a control and a treatment barn.

Throughout the turn, we measure the growth performance of all the pigs in the barn, as well as take a number of air quality measurements. We are tracking dust concentrations in the barn, as well as the exhaust fan to calculate and see if dust is being emitted into the air and if we can reduce it between barns.”

While they are looking at multiple aspects of this system, the effects EPI Air systems have on emissions exiting the barn is one specific area being looked at.

“One exciting aspect that Jon has just begun working on is measuring the difference in emissions from the room to the outside environment,” Baumgartner said. “They see that as significant, especially in situations where you have a nearby neighbor or another producer who is concerned about disease transfer or something of that nature.”

Gas emissions released from hog barns is seen as an unwanted environmental impact, so they are also concentrating on using these systems as a gas reduction method, making it more environmentally friendly.

 “We are taking a variety of gas samples looking for ammonia, methane and hydrogen sulfide to see if we are reducing any of the gases in the barn,” De Jong said. “Looking at dust samples from each barn and measuring the amount of ammonia in the dust is also something we are doing. In the past, EPI Air systems have shown a reduction of ammonia, so we hypothesized that ammonia is being taken out of the air and is possibly going into the dust particles or the manure, so we are also taking manure samples to look further into this.”

Whether it is the reduction of dust or gas emissions, or the improvement of pig performance, these systems have shown to be advantageous to pork producers.

“There are a lot of potential applications, and we feel it’s because of the science behind the air ionization,” Baumgartner said. “It may even help reduce the need for antibiotics and other medications as we move forward and do further research.”

De Jong said they hope to have this project completed within the year.

“Our goal is to have at least an abstract out by next year,” De Jong said. “We officially started collecting our measurements this past January, so this is our first true turn of data we are getting.”

According to De Jong, this research could have multiple positive impacts for pork producers and they are eager to see if the results will mirror those of the Murphy-Brown study.

“We’re not only looking at the amount of dust or emissions from the barn, but looking at whether the system can improve overall pig growth performance is a big aspect of this study we are excited to see,” De Jong said. “This is where producers start to see the economic benefits from utilizing this system.”

Research like this is critical to pursue continuous improvement of the pork industry in order to secure a flourishing future.

“I believe EPI technology will be the next must-have technology if you want to produce swine,” Baumgartner said. £

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