The Farmex Dicam Daylength Controller is a software package that improves pig welfare, cuts costs and is good for the environment. In a 1,000-pig place finisher building, savings amounted to £524 a year — 13p per pig produced — and carbon emissions were reduced by over two tonnes, says Farmex director, Hugh Crabtree.
“Day length is very important to pigs. Independent research shows that pigs, like humans, prefer a long day length — 16 hours of daylight — though, with more sensitive eyes evolved for northern forests, they prefer their daylight dimmer than we do. A longer day length reduces stress and improves both growth rates and immune response.”
However, he points out that permanent lighting — where the stockperson forgets to turn the lights off at night — apart from being expensive, is bad for pigs as it leads to disturbed behavioural patterns and deprives pigs of melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone, produced only if there is a period of complete dark. In humans, a shortage of melatonin is known to be related to stress and sleep disorders.
Most piggeries now have good natural light through windows and vents — but not for long enough for all of the year, suggests Hugh. A longer day length than the EU minimum of eight hours is strongly desirable for pigs but this may increase power consumption, particularly in winter.
The Dicam Daylength Controller takes advantage of daylight by switching off the artificial lighting when there is sufficient natural light. “This saves over 75 per cent of the running cost, making it cheaper to give the pigs the 16-hour day they desire than switching lights on for eight hours. It also saves time and effort,” he said.
The software can also include “phased dimming” to simulate dawn and dusk, allowing the lights to run at reduced power for much of the time and giving a more natural start and end to the day.
Farmex is building this software into its popular range of Dicam ventilation controllers. In most cases just a single timer is needed per building, even if it has a number of rooms, and farms with existing Dicam controls can update their system to include this feature. “Payback in electricity saving is typically less than a year, with improved welfare and lower carbon emissions the icing on the cake,” said Hugh.