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Focus on maintenance to increase hog building life

Focus on maintenance to increase hog building life

Livestock building

Routine maintenance and identification of potential problems should help increase hog building longevity.

Many hog buildings are starting to show their age, but focusing on regular maintenance could stretch out their shelf life.

Brian Dougherty, Extension ag engineer with Iowa State University in eastern Iowa, says many confinement buildings were constructed in the 1990s and have out-lived their predicted life span.

But he says areas like roof erosion should be addressed as soon as possible.

“The pit fans send gas into the eaves opening, and when that condenses on steel, it causes corrosion,” Dougherty says. “That’s a very standard design issue with a lot of buildings.”

Dougherty collaborated with other ag engineers to produce five publications that offer tips on how to properly maintain buildings.

Another potential problem is the re-circulation of undesirable gases during periods of minimum ventilation in winter. The ventilation fans pull the gases out, but these gases can often recirculate through the soffits, causing premature damage to the facility roof. One solution is to close the soffit air intakes and install new air intakes on the gable end of the facility.

“Putting a large opening on the gable end is going to send in quite a bit of fresh air,” Dougherty says.

Another area to check is concrete slats. Dougherty stays many of those slats are also deteriorating.

“They are cracking, or you have re-bar exposed,” he says. “Those slats could collapse and send everything into the pit.”

Dougherty says in some case, concrete piers built under the slats were not properly centered, causing one area to bear more of the weight burden than others, and thereby resulting in some cracks.

He suggests the use of an inspection camera that can be placed under the slat to check for damage. Dougherty says the camera can be operated with a smart phone.

Despite their age, some buildings remain in great shape even after three decades of service, says Kapil Arora, ISU Extension ag engineer in central Iowa. He says the rapid rise in the cost of building materials will likely prompt producers to extend building life as long as possible.

One area to address is ventilation. Arora says inlets need to be checked regularly, especially if they are part of an automatic system.

“Some are going to get stuck. You want proper air circulation and no dead spots,” he says.

Arora says all aspects of the ventilation system should be checked regularly, including curtains and fans.

“As the ventilation needs go up, those multiple stage fans should be kicking in,” he says. “You need to keep an eye on them.”

ISU’s publications are free of charge and available to download for future use. They may be found online at

  • Enhancing the Longevity of Swine Building Components (AE 3543)
  • Swine Building Ventilation System Maintenance and Troubleshooting Tools (AE 3544)
  • Gable End Attic Air Intakes for Swine Building Ventilation (AE 3545)
  • Concrete Inspection in Swine Buildings (AE 3547)
  • Installation and Maintenance of Wood Roof Trusses in Farm Buildings (AE 3548).

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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