Farrowing Room Maintenance

Ed Barrie, sow and weaner pig specialist with OMAFRA, offers tips on maintenance and essential checks on the farrowing room in the latest 'Pork News and Views'.
calendar icon 19 October 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

The changing of the season from summer to fall is a challenging time for farrowing barn management. We experience a wide range of temperatures from the lower 30’s to the mid-single digit numbers in a 24-hour period. However, the overall trend line over the next 60 days is to significantly reduce temperatures, and increase the opportunities to either over heat, or chill the young animals still on the sows.

The first step in managing this situation is to inspect the sources of heat to ensure they are working correctly. This includes heat bulbs, pads and gas fired heaters. Those that are fan operated should be cleaned – preferably blown out with compressed air, and run through a heating cycle to ensure that they not only come on when they should but also that they shut off when their upper limits are reached. Controllers, thermostats and switches controlling heat pads or bulbs should be cleaned and tested to ensure that they are working and are accurate for their intended purposes.

The ventilation system then needs to be inspected and cleaned. This includes disconnecting fans from power sources, followed by a scraping or wire brushing of fan blades and exhaust louvers, and lubrication of fan motors if applicable. After reconnecting to the electrical system, fans should be tried over their range of speeds and checked again to ensure they are running evenly and smoothly and are not out of balance. Fan louvers should be watched to ensure they open the full range of travel and are closing without sticking when fan speed is reduced. Fan controllers have long been a challenge and given the conditions they must function in do a reasonable job. The controllers must be cleaned, if possible inspected, and tested over their operating ranges. Those needing replacement should be changed. Air inlets are best inspected by moving them through their full range of travel looking for stiff points in their travel where they may stick, or shutters that are permanently corroded into one position, and can’t be moved. If necessary, the inlets should be cleaned as well. Frequently, inlets are overlooked as a source of trouble and let them go as being all right. The results are poor air circulation and resulting in hot and cold spots within the farrowing room.

This inspection is also a suitable time to look over wiring connections for signs of overheating or damaged wiring or connectors.

Another area that will require changes this fall is a result of producers reducing sow numbers. Farrowing rooms are designed to operate with every crate full. If you are only filling a part of a farrowing room, you will need reduced ventilation requirements and possibly the addition of more supplemental heat to maintain animal comfort levels.

It would also be reasonable to take a look at all doors and latches to ensure that they are in reasonable operating condition. Doors should close reasonably well so as not to become an unwanted inlet of ventilation air, and upset the air flow balance within the room. Some suggestions for rooms that cannot be filled include placing a sow in every other crate down the length of the room (50 per cent full) or placing sows in two adjacent crates then leaving an empty crate down the length of the room (60 to 70 per cent full). This action typically spreads the ventilation and heating load over the whole room rather than concentrating it at one end, as filling all the crates at one end and leaving the rest empty would do.

It is then important to ensure that rooms be checked regularly for a few days, once they are filled to ensure all systems are working correctly.

October 2010
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