Fall is in the air. As temperatures decrease and relief begins from the summer sun’s intense rays, swine producers will prepare their facilities for the change in season.
“Just as with the summer heat, the fall/winter season also requires proper ventilation,” said Russell Gilliam, U.S. swine business manager for Alltech. “During colder months, a balance to keep air moving, without causing abnormal temperature changes in the barn, must be met.”
According to Gilliam, an effective air quality program for hog facilities should include the following procedures:
- Determine all fans are in working order. Clean fan blades, check the motors and make sure the fan’s thermostat works.
- Examine fan blades and louvers for damage and rust, and replace them if they are older than 10- to 15-years old.
- Pay close attention to curtains to make sure they close securely and that all debris or equipment are cleaned up and put away before snowfall.
- Check propane tanks for leaks and then test all supplemental heat sources for proper function.
- Examine your rodent control program.
While all of these tips can be quite useful in keeping the facility safe for the pig herd and the employees in the barn, swine operations may want to consider employing the use of a feed additive to combat the additional challenge of ammonia. Ammonia is a toxic gas that when present in high levels can damage the cell lining in the respiratory tract and easily become a chronic problem in the barn. The gas, released through the activity of waste-degrading microbes, can cause stillbirths, boar taint, tailbiting and respiratory diseases in pigs; it can also cause severe problems for humans. A number of management factors can contribute to poor air quality and ammonia, such as overfeeding nutrients as well as reduced ventilation.
One nutritional approach that some producers have found as a safe, natural way to reduce emissions and maintain air quality is the addition of a yucca plant extract that binds ammonia. The Yucca schidigera plant extract is known for its ability to reduce adverse manure emissions and the level of ammonia in animal housing when used as a feed additive (De-Odorase®). The plant extract keeps manure odor and ammonia at levels conducive to maintaining the pig’s respiratory health, creating a healthier environment for the animal as well as the producer.
“Reduced airflow and increased ammonia levels are inevitable in the barn during the fall/winter months. Producers need to make sure their barns can get through the long winter and prevent respiratory disease and health problems for both their herd and their employees,” Gilliam said. “Embracing new technologies and developing a management plan can help swine operations handle these cold weather challenges effectively.”