Thursday, March 12, 2015

Preparing your barns for spring and summer

Spring is one of my favorite times of year; I enjoy seeing the world turn green with signs of new life, crops in the field, young livestock out on pasture, and the hope a new growing season provides. However, in the livestock business spring also offers some new challenges for our barn’s ventilation systems. As summer and winter ventilation changes are drastically different it’s important to check over your ventilation systems start prepping your barn for the heat stress challenges summer is sure to bring.

The objective of any ventilation system is to replace the stale air in the buildings with fresh air from outside. We do this to remove excess heat and moisture from the barn, minimize dust, limit the build-up of potentially harmful gases like ammonia or hydrogen sulfide, and to provide oxygen for respiration. In addition to doing all this, often times we also are trying to conserve energy while trying to create this optimum environment to raise our pigs. Over the winter, you probably made some changes to your barn ventilation system to focus on being energy efficient while not chilling pits and parts of your ventilation system have been sitting, collecting dust all winter.

With that in mind, here is a list of a few key components of your ventilation system to think about as warmer weather approaches:
  • Fans – In some systems, such as tunnel ventilated facilities, many of the fans were winterized with plastic or at the very least were idle for many months. In barns with natural ventilation you also probably had some fans you weren't using for winter ventilation. Fans should be cleaned, have their belts tightened and shutters adjusted to open freely. Fans with dirty blades, shutters, or loose belts can move as little as 25% of their rated capacity, costing you money by having to run longer to achieve the same air exchanges and not effectively cooling your animals.
  • Curtains/Curtain operation – Curtains should operate freely without hang-ups. It is important that pulleys and cords move; a curtain that gets hung-up isn’t providing the ventilation you need. Don’t forget to check the drops/emergency measures – summer thunderstorms and power outages can be a real danger to animals, so check the drops on a regular basis.
  • Soffits – All soffit openings should be open, not only to provide for mid-range ventilation but also to allow the attic to vent and avoid extreme building heat
  •  Inlets – Inlets are generally adjusted to direct air across the ceiling in the winter but may point slightly downward in the summer to promote cooling. Try to make your inlet opening consistent throughout the barn.
  • Water lines – Water consumption is critical in hot weather. Check all your nipple and cup waterers and filters to be sure that flow rates meet the basic needs of the pig.
  • Stir fans – Stirring fans should be cleaned and checked for proper operation.  Tilt them slightly downward for cooling.
  •  Cooling Nozzles – Nozzles used for sprinkling animals may have sediment built up in the line or the orifices may be plugged.   Check controller settings.  These should be cycled on an off in a manner that allows animals to become dry before wetting them again. 
  •   Evaporative Pads – Evaporative pads are used most typically in gestation and breeding facilities.  Remove winterizing material and inspect for rodent damage and bird nests.  Be sure the pump is working properly and that drip holes on the inlet tube are free-flowing. 
With those tips in mind, pick yourself a nice day in the next couple weeks and get your barn ready for spring,  so that when the summer heat arrives, your cooling breeze keeps on flowing. A big thanks to Dr. Jay Harmon for providing a few tips to help me out in writing this post.

P.S. - You may be wondering what this has to do with manure... well it just felt seasonal and next week I'm planning to touch on a the topic of hydrogen sulfide concentrations during manure agitation (since spring application season appears to be fast approaching).