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Managing swine barns through winter

Managing swine barns through winter

Pork producers can manage air flow to ensure good air quality and proper temperature for pig health and comfort 

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

As temperatures outside drop it’s important to review any maintenance that may be necessary to ensure remain livestock are healthy and comfortable.

So, connected with Steve Beadle, an agriculture engineer specializing in livestock structures and equipment as part of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ swine team, for his advice for pork producers this winter.

Heating requirements will vary by the age of the pig, Beadle explained.

“Most nursery rooms start about 31 C (88 F) and are gradually lowered to about 23 C (73 F) as the pigs grow. Gestating or dry sows are generally comfortable at a temperature between 16 and 18 C (61 and 64 F) and typically produce enough heat on their own to maintain these temperatures,” he said.

Once piglets are born, ventilation and temperature should be balanced for both sow and piglet comfort.

“In the farrowing room, ventilation systems should typically run around 20 C (68 F) for sow comfort, with heat mats or heat lamps to provide warmer areas for piglets,” he said.

“Weaner pigs require supplemental heat. Some supplemental heat may be needed in the first couple of weeks in the finishing barn but finishing pigs can perform well down to about 12 to 14 C (54 to 57 F).”

Air quality is important in pig barns, and ventilation can be managed to control humidity as well as temperature.

“Pig barns are typically run at minimum ventilation rates during winter to control humidity levels.  Target a relative humidity between 50 and 75 per cent. A minimum of about three or four room air changes per hour is needed to ensure good air quality,” Beadle explained.

“A properly designed and maintained barn will perform well when the outside temperatures are cold.  Ensure fans are clean, heaters are serviced, and inlets are properly balanced.

“If located in an area with hard winters, consider increasing insulation levels in the walls and ceiling to limit heat loss to the outdoors and realize some savings in heating fuel,” he added.

Well-functioning barns and equipment are critical during extreme cold events.

“Balanced inlets are very important during extreme cold events to ensure inlet air is jetted across the ceiling and warmed before reaching pig level. The most probable issue during extreme cold events occurs when rooms are emptied for washing between turns. Ensure minimum temperature and ventilation rates are maintained even when rooms are emptied. This will also help limit manure gases,” Beadle said.

To avoid problems, Beadle advised producers to be prepared.

“Go into winter with a well-functioning barn. Have ventilation systems cleaned and balanced. Maintain heaters for safety and efficiency. Fix any leaking waterlines. Install insulated covers on summer ventilation fans,” he said.

Producers should keep those considerations top-of-mind to help pigs stay healthy and productive through the winter.

SimplyCreativePhotography\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo


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