Whether it’s an open feedlot or confinement, late fall is a good time to make sure livestock facilities and equipment are ready for winter.
“It’s a lot more pleasant doing this work now, when the weather is usually better, than when it’s 10 degrees,” says Shawn Shouse, Extension ag engineer with Iowa State University.
He says in addition to regular maintenance, some producers could still be in the process of repairing buildings damaged in the Aug. 10 derecho.
“The roof may be new, but they could be waiting on insulation or other repairs,” Shouse says. “It’s going to be more work for some this fall.”
Open feedlots can be difficult to maintain this time of year, with conditions ranging from dry to muddy to frozen. Shouse says the surface of the feedlot needs to be leveled and maintained prior to long periods of freezing weather.
Some sort of windbreak is also necessary for an open feedlot. Shouse says stacked cornstalk bales will work if a permanent shelter or wooded windbreak is unavailable.
Corn stalks can also be used as bedding to keep cattle from having to lay down in mud.
“You want to make sure you have a good supply that is readily accessible,” Shouse says.
Permanent structures such as monoslopes also need fall maintenance.
“The primary purpose of these buildings is to keep cattle dry and out of the wind,” Shouse says. “You don’t want to close them up too tight because we don’t want the humidity. Leave a gap at the top of the curtain or the door open enough so you can see the water vapor coming out of the building.”
Shouse says the watering system also needs to be checked to ensure water is available to the cattle.
The checklist may be lengthier when it comes to hog confinement buildings, says Brett Ramirez, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer. He says equipment inside the buildings needs to be cleaned and tested to make sure it’s working properly.
“Make sure those emergency drops work, clean the soffits, things like that,” he says.
Curtains should be checked for holes. Ramirez says any opening will keep the ventilation system from doing what it’s supposed to do.
“Any kind of draft will now allow a good static pressure, which helps the ventilation system work properly,” he says.
Fans also need to be checked to make sure they are working. Wiring should also be inspected, Ramirez says.
“Basically, you want to take a good look at everything and make sure it’s working,” he says, adding anything that is needed in the event of an emergency should get some extra attention.