An epidemic is plaguing the pork industry. Unfortunately, few people are talking about it and even fewer are doing anything about it. A few simple steps, however, can save time, money, increase profitability, improve herd health, and stop this issue from spreading. It’s proper barn maintenance, and it’s more important than you think.
Swine facilities are a costly investment and like any investment, you get out of it what you put into it. Just as you regularly service your vehicles, it’s important to regularly service your hog barns and it doesn’t require a full-time crew to do it.
If It’s Broken, Fix It … and Grease It
That’s the simple advice Mike Brumm, owner of Brumm Swine Consultancy Inc., offers producers.
“Don’t be blind to building maintenance,” he says. Pig care is at the forefront of the industry, but lack of building maintenance makes pig care more difficult. Poor maintenance can damage a producer’s reputation and, in some cases, lead to contracts being terminated.
Little fixes now can save big money later. For example, if concrete slats deteriorate, hogs begin to develop feet and leg problems. Brumm says using a concrete sealer at major wear points—under drinkers, around feeders/feed saver mats, etc.—after power washing the barn, can save hundreds and protect hogs from injury. For a 2,400 head barn, a $40 fix prolongs the life of several $300 concrete slats.
“Being proactive is so much better than getting stuck with a big bill to fix everything that’s been ignored,” says Justin Wagster, field manager with JBS. Producers also risk extensive downtime, which ultimately costs them even more money.
“Your biggest concern is anything that’s power driven,” Wagster says.
Fans, feed motors, curtain machines, controllers and similar elements play a critical role in how a group of pigs performs. It’s imperative mechanical equipment remains in working order at all times. Additionally, if it has moving parts, odds are it also has a grease zerk. A grease gun belongs in a hog barn and plays a significant role in maintaining all those moving parts, increasing their longevity.
It’s not just the mechanics, Wagster says, producers need to look at the barn as a whole. Put eyes on everything, he advises.
Make it a habit to look at the barn, not just the pigs, and encourage your employees to do the same. Keeping a maintenance record will ultimately save time, improve herd health and reduce downtime by preventing big breakdowns before they happen.