By Emmalee Haege and Amberlyn Wendling, The Maschhoffs Production Managers
In the Midwest, the transition from winter to spring to summer can be abrupt, to say the least. In recent years, it seems we’ll quickly go from highs in the 40s to the mid-80s, leaving a lot of us wondering what happened to spring.
Those abrupt transitions can be tough for a group of finishing pigs. As a result, we often begin focusing on a summer checklist early to ensure we’re prepared to move into the warm summer months.
- Ventilation check: When transitioning to the summer, you want to focus a lot of your effort on ventilation. In doing so, you’ll need to make sure your controller set points are shifted for warmer temperatures. This is also a good time to check your curtain drops, generator and alarm system. Failing to check these key areas can be viewed as negligence by an insurance company in the event of an asphyxiation event. Also, check all fans to make sure they are functional. Check the belts and motors; and pull your pit fans off and clean out the opening.
- Water check: Water can go a long way in keeping pigs comfortable in the summer heat. We recommend verifying that your water pressure is good throughout the barn. That means taking the time to check that you’re getting good water flow in the farthest reaches of each room. Plus, you’ll want to verify all of your waterers are functioning so that pigs have good water access throughout the barn. Also, make sure your misters are working properly. Check to make sure all mister tips are in place, and the controller is set up properly for the correct run times and start/stop temps. Finally, if you have an outdoor water connection for market load trailers, make sure it’s in good condition and wasn’t damaged over the winter.
- Marketing tips: In the summer heat, the key to marketing is to take your time. If you’re sorting pigs before marketing, we suggest trying to do it when the temperatures are cooler in the morning. And, try to do it early enough before the load time so the pigs can have at least a couple hours of rest before loading. When loading market hogs, remember to take it slow and take small groups. Also, work with your driver to get wood chips down and watered before starting to load. Finally, be sure to keep the water on in the trailer during loading. Make sure you work with your transporter/dispatcher to verify your loading time is correct and will arrive at the plant at the right time so the truck isn’t sitting in line. Discuss with the driver the importance for him to keep the truck moving and air on the pigs, i.e. don’t stop for food or fuel. Get the pigs sprayed down with water and get on the road.
- Start-up tips: Wean pig start-up in the summer months is slightly easier than winter months, but there are still key points to pay attention to. When pigs arrive, make sure they have access to water and can rehydrate after a warm trip. You can place gruel pans full of water in the pens, or if you have the plastic mats you can also fill those up with water. This allows the wean pigs to have more access to water so they can fill up faster and rehydrate. If you are using heat lamps or brooders, you will need to check to see what the overnight forecast looks like to decide if you need them at start-up or not. If you are in early May or June and lows are still dropping lower than your set point, you will need the lamps. If it’s late-June, July or August, where the overnight lows are still in the 80s, additional heat is unnecessary. Just watch your controllers and your low temps. If your barn is running in minimum vent at night and a degree or so below your set point, you will still need those lamps. The key to a good wean pig start-up is keeping the pigs warm and dry.
Hopefully this year the transition from winter into spring and then summer is a smooth one. But, it’s always good to be prepared for rapid temperature swings.