Swine facilities need constant evaluation to keep animals healthy and productive, and that’s particularly true during the winter months. Here are four tips to help you prepare for the cold temperatures ahead.
1. Evaluate the condition of your barn curtains. That’s the No. 1 thing Nick Lehman says he checks prior to winter to ensure that the curtains close well, have the proper overlap, don’t contain any holes and can provide a good seal. “Air infiltration is an issue, and the easiest place for that to happen is through the curtains,” notes Lehman, a fourth-generation farmer with a wean-to-finish operation in western Boone County, Iowa. Lehman says he checks curtains routinely while he’s choring; plus, once each fall he spends an hour or so giving them a more comprehensive evaluation to make sure they’ll function well through winter.
2. Check the ventilation system, especially fans. Inspect blades, bearings, belts and sheaves for wear, and fix any mechanical issues to make sure the facility ventilation is as efficient and effective as possible. “We use an AP Edge system here, and the advantage is once you have it dialed in it will tell you if you have a fan that’s not working properly,” Lehman says. However, he adds, you won’t know whether the fan has dirty shutters. “Moisture, ice and dust can stick to them, making them heavier and less likely to open the right way, and sometimes we’ll see we need to wash them.”
3. Inspect barn heaters. Blow dust and debris out of heaters with compressed air or a leaf blower tool. This will help promote efficient as well as safe operation of the units, says Austin Zimmerman, sales engineer for Automated Production Systems. He adds: Make sure the ignitor, sail switch and flame sensor are not covered with carbon or dust. Move the flame probe ground wire to the burner to ensure the heater functions properly.
4. Consider all environmental control systems. “Environmental controls are like good hired help,” Lehman says. “Don’t take them for granted.”