Keep Hog Barns Running with 7 Monthly Tasks

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Source: Pork Checkoff

Items on a monthly hog barn maintenance task list can be among the easiest to overlook. They’re less frequent than weekly, but far more often than annually.

Daily and weekly maintenance checklists fit smoothly into a regular routine. Maintenance set on a quarterly or annual schedule may be easy to remember by a change in season, pig flow schedule or another related trigger.

Nonetheless, there are some critical tasks that you should be doing monthly. The daily realities of pork production can make it hard to find time for routine maintenance.

“Some of these maintenance items take more effort,” says Jay Harmon, agricultural engineer and associate dean of Extension at Iowa State University (ISU). “They’re not things you just walk by and check. You have to dig into them, so it takes more time and planning.”

Of course, it’s always time well spent if you prevent an emergency and keep people and pigs safe. There’s also the upside of making all concerned more comfortable and productive.

7 Monthly Hog Facility Checks

A printable maintenance checklist ranging from daily to annual tasks is available for download here.

To help keep monthly maintenance items in the rotation, Pork Checkoff has provided this seven-point checklist to add to your routine.

It is recommended to check the following areas monthly:

  1. Curtain pockets for loose curtains
  2. The tightness of fan motor frame bolts
  3. Fan belt tension
  4. Algae and salt buildup on cool cell-pad during the summer months
  5. Gas leaks around heaters and gas source
  6. Cycle barn heater(s) and listen for proper cycle of pre-start of events
  7. Run the heater(s) once a month all year around to keep systems functional and rodents out

A Safe, Healthy Environment for Pigs

The monthly checks are designed to keep the pig’s environment set to maximize comfort, health and safety. For example, checking for gas leaks is safety issue no-brainer. However, it can be easy to overlook since a leak cannot always be detected by human senses.

To check for gas leaks properly, you’ll need the right equipment, Harmon notes. You can invest in an actual gas detector, but there’s also a quick test that can reveal a concern. Simply mix a spoonful of dishwashing soap with a cup of water, then use a paint brush to apply the solution onto the pipe or connection – if bubbles form, there’s a leak.

Check and Repair Sidewall Curtains

Because sidewall curtains may typically have only a three- to four-year lifespan, it can pay to be diligent about checking and repairing them.

This includes the actual curtain as well as the alignment of cables and pulleys. Check to ensure the curtain ropes or straps are properly adjusted to prevent curtain sagging and they are not binding as the curtain opens and closes.

Cleaning curtains and curtain netting is also important. Often just using a garden hose will work well.

“Although you may be tempted to use a pressure washer, it can puncture the curtain and lead to breakdown and leakage over time,” says Kris Kohl, ISU Extension agricultural engineering specialist. He also advises you to avoid cleaning chemicals as they can degrade the curtain.

More information on selecting curtains and maintenance can be found within this ISU fact sheet – Enhancing the Longevity and Function of Swine Building Components.

Don’t Forget to Clean Cool-Cells

In tunnel-ventilated buildings, cool-cells don’t always get the attention they deserve because they’re outside and out of mind. However, lack of cleaning can lead to inefficient operation. Salts and minerals build up because the cells are constantly bringing in and evaporating water.

“It’s like a miniature Dead Sea,” Harmon says. “Depending on the climate, plan to wash and rinse out the trough with a garden hose monthly during the hot-weather months.” If the cool-cells need more serious cleaning, check the manufacturers’ recommendations.

Don’t Overlook Water Lines

There’s no set standard time interval to check water lines, but one thing is certain, they are often neglected.

“Producers need to be cleaning water lines more regularly, especially if iron levels are high,” says Ron Ketchem, Swine Management Services, Fremont, Nebraska. “It can cause a slimy build up and create a biofilm, harboring bacteria and such inside your water line.”

This can have a negative impact on water palatability, especially with young pigs.

Ketchem says water lines should be cleaned following any medication or additives that have been run through the waterers. Acidifiers that are formulated to clean waterlines are available. Bleach also can be used but get guidance from an Extension swine specialist or veterinarian for the right application.

“It’s easy to forget about things that we don’t pay for or that aren’t a high-cost investment,” Ketchem says. “But water has such a big impact on the pigs that we need to pay more attention to it.”

In case you missed it, these daily and weekly maintenance checklists are references for your farm.