This terrific autumn weather makes it fun to work in the hog barn. You don’t need supplemental heat, yet the hogs are comfortable day and night, and the breeding herd cooperates better now that it’s not so hot. This is the perfect time to prepare for winter so that you don’t find yourself out in subzero weather tackling an emergency. So, here are some places to start.

Ventilation:

It’s a bit more complicated than just doing the opposite of what you did in April to get ready for summer. Winter requires ventilation, but it’s a delicate balance to keep air moving without chilling piglets or causing pneumonia in the finisher.

Check all fans to ensure proper operation. Clean fan blades, check the motors and make sure the fan’s thermostat works. Summer ventilation fans can be turned off and their louvers covered to prevent cold air from entering the building. Examine fan blades and louvers for damage and rust. If they are 10 to 15 years old, it may be time to replace them.

Outside The Building:

  • Feeding Equipment — Make sure bin lids open and close securely, lubricate auger ends, secure ladders and auger covers. Any part of the equipment that needs fixing, do it now.
  • Curtains — If you keep curtains shut in the winter, check that they close securely.  If you run a winter exhaust fan for building ventilation, consider permanently sealing up the curtains for the season by nailing them shut with 1-x-2s.
  • Feed Bins, Loading Chutes, Driveways, Compost Stations — Clean up any debris or equipment that might impede access to these areas in the winter. Especially in a snowy region, you want to ensure that these areas can be reached without problems. Compost bins should contain heat, even in cold temperatures. Placing the compost phases in shared-wall bins will help conserve heat. Keeping compost contents away from exterior walls also helps.
  • Propane Tanks — Check propane tanks for leaks, which is easily done by putting dish soap and water into a spray bottle and spraying the connections at the tank and in the building; then look for bubbles. If you find leaks, contact a gas company professional to address the problem.

Inside The Building:

  • Rodent Control — Rats and mice are headed your way for the winter. Clean up any spilled feed and put out traps and bait.  Seal up and repair holes in the walls. Rats and mice can decimate insulation, so cover the holes with metal or steel wool to keep them out. Research shows that mice need only ¼ inch and rats need ½ inch to enter a building.
  • Air Inlets — After you’ve adjusted fans for winter operation, check the air inlets that regulate the season’s fresh air. Clean the inlets, fix any bird barrier that may be damaged and lubricate the system’s mechanics. Test and adjust the thermostat. Seal and repair any unplanned air-entry areas, especially door sills and windows. If you have drafts, they will reduce or negate your winter ventilation effectiveness. Many swine barn ventilation systems require negative air pressure for proper air exchange. A manometer in the building measures the ventilation system’s static pressure. One easy, non-scientific way to test for static pressure is to open the door slightly and see if it shuts on its own. If it doesn’t, check the ventilation adjustment, search for air leaks and install a water manometer in the room or building to help you monitor the static pressure.  
  • Supplemental Heat — Test each heater for proper operation of the thermometer, thermocouple and fuel connection. A common rule-of-thumb is to set the heater thermostat 2 degrees lower than the exhaust fan’s thermostat setting. This prevents the expensive accident of running both heater and fan at the same time. 

Employee Preparation:

  • Reduced air movement in the building in winter keeps pigs comfortable, but it changes the air-quality environment for people, too. If you don’t already use a disposable respirator or mask, you should consider it during the winter months. Research finds that a simple N-95 disposable respirator/mask with a metal nose clip and two straps can reduce the negative lung and breathing effects you experience in the winter hog barn.

So, enjoy October and use it to look around your swine buildings and get prepared for winter.