Pit pumping has begun in areas with small grains such as oats, barley and wheat. In corn-soy country producers are monitoring pit depth in anticipation of soybean harvest beginning in 6-7 weeks. With this in mind, I’ve had some inquiries regarding pit pumping and safety considerations.
The first inquiry was from a producer asking about repairing worn gating following pit pumping. His concern was the potential fire hazard associated with welding sparks serving as a possible ignition source for methane release from the pit. In his situation, the welding would be done when the barn is empty of pigs and following pit pumping.
My recommendation to him was to monitor for pit foaming. If the pit showed evidence of foaming even after pumping, don’t weld above the foam. The gas in the foam is about 70% methane and any activity which breaks the foam (such as welding sparks dropping into the pit) has the potential for release of the gas and the sparks can serve as an ignition source. If there is no foam present, turn on ventilation fans prior to welding to that any methane being released is constantly diluted below the explosive threshold level.