Previous research has shown the possibility of improving air quality in commercial barns using both new technologies as well as best management and engineering practices such as oil sprinkling, bedding management techniques, and so forth. However, these measures have not been tested yet in these new high-welfare production systems, wherein the larger area per animal, addition of bedding, and increased animal movement can bring new challenges for applying these strategies for reducing airborne contaminants. The nature of airborne contaminants is also likely to be different in farms with restricted use of antibiotics compared to conventional farms. No robust data is available regarding the changes in air quality in new animal facilities.
This project will evaluate and improve air quality in agricultural settings using standards for animal welfare and, consequently, reduce health risks in Canadian agriculture. From exposure to airborne contaminants of conventional barns, it is already known that workers may develop infections and non-infectious diseases (e.g. lung function reduction, asthma, chronic bronchitis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis).
On one hand, the literature and the previous work show clearly air quality deterioration inside barns that have adopted alternative housing practices. Furthermore, the level of contaminant measured in previous research can affect human health. So far, no research has proposed techniques or practices to improve air quality for animal production having adopted new trends in animal welfare. On the other hand, in alternative housing systems, the overall air quality is strongly dependent on the human management of the buildings. In fact practices, ventilation settings, manure and bedding management, etc. have to be modified or revisited. However, producers have no tools or information to change or improve the overall management strategies even for modern well-equipped buildings. These kinds of changes require very little money but could significantly improve air quality in these new facilities.
Aims of Project
This project is based on the two following hypotheses:
- The new practices and techniques related to animal welfare will negatively affect air quality and increase health risks for workers and animals.
- Newly developed practices and techniques to reduce airborne contaminants will improve the air quality as well as respect animal welfare standards.
The specific objectives of the project:
- Evaluate and compare the air quality in commercial poultry, dairy and pig barns both in conventional buildings and in farms implementing the new animal welfare standards;
- Determine the best strategies to be applied to protect health in poultry, dairy and pig buildings.
- Adapt these combinations for commercial applications.
- Evaluate the economic impact of management strategies.
For further information about this project, please contact Program Manager Nadia Smith at 306-966-1648 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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2019 - 2020 Year 1 Update
Air quality issues in conventional livestock barns affect animal welfare and put workers at an increased risk of suffering from infectious and non-infectious respiratory diseases. Livestock buildings that employ features to enhance animal welfare such as increased animal activities (freedom of movement, natural behaviours) and the addition of bedding materials may result in worse air quality than conventional barns without these features. This research project will compare the air quality of conventional and enhanced housing systems in poultry, dairy and pig operations. Technologies and engineering practices such as oil sprinkling and bedding management techniques will be evaluated for implementation in Canadian next-generation livestock buildings (enhanced animal housing systems).
In Year 1, Activity 4 was able to analyze the technical and economical requirements of commercial-scale implementation of in-floor heating in combination with the sprinkling of an acid emulsion on the litter in livestock facilities. This combination strategy was implemented in a commercial poultry operation (aviary) in Québec. While the strategy still needs to be optimized, the preliminary results are proof of concept and provide an estimate for the cost of implementing these technologies for improving air quality in alternative housing systems.
Data from the scientific literature and from other ongoing projects are in the process of being compiled to serve as reference values for air quality measurements inside conventional housing environments in poultry, pig and dairy operations. Reference values include those for the concentrations of total dust, PM10, PM2.5, endotoxins, gas emissions (CO2, CH4, N2O and NH3), human pathogens, and antibiotic resistance genes.
Next steps involve visits to various types of animal production facilities including two types of poultry operations (laying hens, conventional and enriched cages), dairy farms, and pig buildings to evaluate the air quality and collect data on building and manure management practices. In total, 40 operations will be visited, 20 in Eastern and 20 in Western Canada, including 8 dairy farms, 6 pig buildings and 6 poultry operations divided equally between conventional and buildings with alternative housing systems. Producers and workers will be interviewed to determine the most popular and efficient airborne contaminant reduction strategies to improve air quality in livestock buildings.
The Fédération de producteurs d’oeufs du Québec (FPOQ), the provincial organization representing egg farmers, helped to recruit egg producers to participate in the project. Currently, all poultry operations required for the study are now recruited.
Informational outputs in Year 1 included a 1-page bulletin under the CANFARMSAFE publication Improved Animal Welfare Barns: What are the health and safety risks? and an interview with CBC Radio Canada.