Preparing livestock buildings for winter is the easy part. The challenges come when the white stuff starts to fall.
“It’s an ongoing process,” says Brett Ramirez, Extension ag engineer with Iowa State University.
Hog buildings need to be frequently checked for any type of hole or leakage, and he says repairs should be made promptly. Inlets also need to be monitored to make sure they are working properly.
“Make sure everything is clean and tight,” Ramirez says.
Pit fans should also be checked often as well, he says.
Building fans should be turned on and off manually to make sure everything remains in working order.
Ramirez says with minimum ventilation, air flow should be in the range of 600 to 800 feet per minute. Humidity levels should be in the 65 to 70% range. Carbon monoxide levels should be less than 5,000 ppm.
He says backup thermostats should be checked and set correctly. The main speed setting on controllers should also be monitored.
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With fuel costs high, producers may be tempted to make changes to save some money.
“Don’t overreact to high fuel costs,” Ramirez says. “Don’t dial back on ventilation.”
Cattle structures generally require much less maintenance than hog buildings, says Tony Mensing, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer based in southwest Iowa.
He says snow removal plans should be a priority to make sure there is always access to the cattle, whether housed or in an open feedlot.
Watering systems should be monitored to make sure nothing is freezing up.
“If you have heaters, they may not have been used for several months and may require maintenance,” Mensing says.
Some buildings may have insulation under roof panels to help with condensation. Mensing says those need to be checked to make sure they are working correctly. Roofs should also be checked for ice, he says, adding large amounts of ice could damage the structure or potentially slide off the building and cause injury.
He says good ventilation needs to be a priority.
“If you keep drafts down, everything will be more efficient and you can keep costs down,” Mensing says. “That calf if going to grow better if it’s not spending all its energy just to stay warm.”