This is the second instalment in a series of blogs that follow the Belgian Bogaert family and the developments in the construction of their brand-new farrowing house in Ledegem. Until last year, they tested four Pro Dromi® Classic pens, and now they are constructing a house with 104 of these farrowing pens. We would like to follow this special project with you.
This blog interviews Vereijken distributor Geert Carbon (BvbA Vanpeteghem A & G). Read more about the challenges and specifics that the family is encountering on their path. And don’t forget to have a look at the photos of this special project on the website!
left to right
Quirijn Dees (Vereijken Hooijer)
Geert Carbon (distributor BvbA Vanpeteghem A&G)
Innovative pig farmer
“There are very few customers who take innovation as far as pig farmer Rik Bogaert does. He truly is a man of his time”, says Geert Carbon, who has been active as a distributor and supplying equipment for livestock houses in Belgium for 27 years BvbA Vanpeteghem A & G . He specialises in designing, constructing and equipping pig houses. “I do have a long track record”, he admits modestly, but in the course of his long career he has met very few pig farmers who can compare with Rik Bogaert. “A person who is open to embrace and test new technology and take on a pioneering role, learning by trial and error.”
Despite the fact that there is no legislation in place yet in Belgium for free farrowing pens, Bogaert still opted for the Pro Dromi® system. An important feature of these pens is the contrasting temperature: the sows have nice cool, fresh air while the piglets are snug and warm. This means the pigs eat well and the piglets do not catch cold. “For two years he ran four test set-ups of the pens. The system really proved its benefits so now he is building 52 farrowing pens in two stages. Rik really has a pioneering role in this respect, and everyone is interested to see how the project progresses.”
Building from A to Z
Carbon has been involved in the building project right from the start: from the conceptual design to project follow-up. After the plans were drawn, work started on excavating a one-metre-deep pit. The floor was poured surrounded by a 30-centimeter thick wall of reinforced concrete. The necessary openings and partition walls for the air ducts, which enable fresh air to enter up to the sow’s nose level, were factored in when the concrete was poured. Subsequently, precast concrete elements were used to build on the walls and the feed corridors.
Innovative air cooling system
No matter how good or innovative a design for a pig house is, without a properly functioning ventilation system to control the house climate, all the effort will have been in vain. That is why the Bogaert family chose floor duct ventilation with additional cooling options.
An innovative air cooling system maintains a constant house temperature. Water pumped up from the ground ensures that, during summer, incoming air is cooled via a heat exchanger and heated during winter (geothermal system). This air is directed to the sows at nose level via underfloor ducts. The heat pump is also used to extract heat from the groundwater that is then used to warm the Nannies (piglet nests). This installation is powered by solar panels to facilitate energy-neutral operation.
Up to the sow’s nose
The photo also shows the opening that guides fresh air from the underfloor duct to the sow’s nose level. These openings in the precast concrete are a crucial component of the system; they must be positioned accurately otherwise the front of the farrowing pen – and therefore the entire pen – will not fit correctly in the row.
But that’s not all. To ensure this ventilation system functions correctly, overpressure is used throughout the house. This is only possible if all the underfloor air ducts are airtight. Any leaks will create too small a pressure difference between the underfloor ducts and the house pressure so that the fresh air from the ducts no longer reaches the sows. It’s vital not to overlook a single joint, so all the precast elements were finished with a top coating of liquid concrete.
Choice of manure tray
Bogaert chose a stainless steel tray to collect the manure, a system that many people shy away from, but in his view is the ideal system. With a manure tray, manure and urine are not collected in a pit under the sows but collected together in one stainless steel tray just below the floor of the farrowing house, see photo. These trays (one per sow) are all connected to a central drainage system. Every 72 hours, one homogeneous product is discharged through the drain pipes via an automatic control valve. As a result, the sows are no longer left standing above their own manure, the odours are removed and the temperature remains constant. Emissions are also reduced thanks to the shape of the manure tray and the regular discharge frequency. This tackles ammonia emissions at the source and leads to better air quality for the sows and for the people who work in the pig house! It also ensures that the Belgian standards for the construction of low-ammonia emission housing systems are complied with.
“This stainless steel manure tray is larger than usual and adapted to the dimensions of the free farrowing pens. After all, in this system, sows can move around and drop manure everywhere. In short, new and innovative! After consulting with the government agencies, Bogaert arrived at a satisfactory conclusion.”
Good insulation is critical to providing optimum ventilation, but also a condition to build an energy-neutral house. After the foundation walls were laid, the steel supporting structure was installed and covered by corrugated fibre roofing sheets. “The underside of the roof was then well insulated using fixed PU 8 cm sheets, finished with a layer of double-sided aluminium foil, so we can meet the energy performance level for pig houses in Belgium.
The rest of the house features red bricks, to match the farmhouse. This design strategy ensures a pleasing, uniform aesthetic.
The interior walls are finished with smooth, cleanable plastic wall panels, built and filled with using concrete. All new methods that have never been applied before. Being so radical always take courage, because the materials used are sometimes unfamiliar.
However, in consultation, you’d be surprised by how much you can achieve.”
To provide the pigs with sufficient natural light, a long strip of super insulating glass was installed in the wall to create a window. This glass has extremely good insulation properties (K-value 1.0) and also ensures the minimum requirement of 3% light.
The road less travelled
Carbon is enthusiastic about the new house and the cooperation with the family. “It’s a massive challenge for us to work with the Bogaert family. They have achieved something that is totally new, which is not always easy, but we are happy that we went along with their plans. By taking the road less travelled we have learned that with vision, more is possible that you think.”
PS: Curious to see what the finished building will look like? Visit our website for a photo collage of the project. The next blog about the Bogaert family is on the automatic feeding system.
This project was made possible with help from: