Steps to Improve Barn Environment

by 5m Editor
2 June 2008, at 6:21am

CANADA - Ensuring a timely and effective maintenance plan can ensure a smooth operating facility.

Some basic routine scheduling includes:

  1. Repair and replace penning, flooring, etc. which causes spilled water, or manure and urine to lie on floors and alleyways. This raises ammonia and humidity levels in the winter and reduces the room temperature, as it takes energy to evaporate this liquid.
  2. Check slats and penning support ledges for locations where manure can build-up. This provides a haven for flies and causes similar problems to 1) above.
  3. Never allow manure to build up closer than 12" to the bottom of the slats. Gas begins to enter the confinement area and effect performance if manure builds up beyond this level.
  4. Check for leaks through manure pump out ports, under manure pit dividers, etc. Air entering rooms this way increases gas production from the manure and can cause extreme health problems.
  5. Flush manure from gravity flow pits within 15-20 days maximum. Recharge the pits with a few inches of fresh/wash water to absorb ammonia and reduce potential for solids build up.
  6. Ensure radiant heat lamps direct heat onto solid pads. Light passing through slats will heat the manure below and increase gas production.


If there is a pit tube/duct ventilation system, be sure to check it periodically for solids/manure build-up.
Repair leaking waterers immediately. Keep replacements handy.
Verify adequate flow at water nipples to see if there are problems. Check during high flow times. Since 70 % of water is consumed during feeding, morning or late afternoon is best. If some form of water based cooling is used, it will mean the heaviest load occurs during late afternoon; check when the cooling systems is operating.
Ensure that the mechanical ventilation system is performing as required. Use a static pressure gauge to adjust air inlets; Set @ 0.04" in the summer, 0.08" in the winter.
Verify inlet openings are correct with a velocity meter such as the Dwyer High Air Speed Indicator.
Ensure inlets are of good quality and properly located to mix fresh air uniformly and reduce drafts.
Adjust minimum winter ventilation to achieve a relative humidity (RH)of 50-70% . Too high causes health problems from air-borne pathogens. Too low wastes increase heating costs and can also cause health problems. An inexpensive digital relative humidity instrument is a good device for checking relative humidity as well as temperature.
Verify heaters, fans/shutters and controls are all maintained.
If air is drawn in from the attic in summer, ensure temperature rise is less than 1.5 0 C. Exterior roof sheathing should be white, or a layer of insulation on the underside of the roof will also help to reduce solar heat gain.
Check and maintain insulation levels. It not only reduces heat load on the building, it reduces the thermal environment effects due to reduced radiation (winter) and excessive radiation (summer).
Consider some form of cooling appropriate to the type of production room; spray cooling, evaporative cooling pads, stirring fans, tunnel ventilation, earth tube cooling, etc. A 3-7 C 0 cooling benefit with a resulting improved feed consumption is achievable.
Monitor temperature with a good quality digital maximum/minimum thermometer in every room. Older style mercury thermometers do not respond quickly enough.


Ensure pigs receive adequate light for at least 10 h/d (Recommended Code of Practise for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals (Pigs) ). Use fluorescent tube fixtures or high intensity discharge (HID) to achieve this economically. Paint walls and ceilings white. Keep surfaces and lighting fixtures clean to ensure maximum reflectivity.
Consider the installation of windows to improve the environment for management. They add very little to heat load and can provide a psychological lift.
Install a good quality alarm system. It should be independent of controls, be battery backed up and lightning protected, and managed so that response to alarm is less than 15 minutes. A back up generator or other emergency contingency plan should be well formulated in advance to reduce potential for animal suffering and loss. It should operate off all minimum ventilation fans and hi/low temperature in each room.
Conduct a " Barn Health Audit" on the manure, ventilation, and lighting systems at least every spring and fall. Consider having independent experts out to conduct the audit for you.

5m Editor