Managing production through a barn remodel

Prioritizing, planning and adapting key whether a Prop 12 remodel or a general renovation.

March 14, 2024

3 Min Read
National Pork Board

By AMVC Management Services

Amidst the lingering uncertainties surrounding the implementation and lasting impacts of Prop 12, many producers find themselves trying to decide the best time and approach to barn updates.

Whether starting a remodel with the specific goal of Prop 12 compliance or opting for a general renovation, here are a few insights to help maintain production through the complications of construction and barn remodels.

Prioritize resources

A significant part of the process is figuring out how to optimize space in the barn and manage pig flow to facilitate the remodel. Creating space begins with prioritizing time, labor, production and biosecurity.

For example, if you have more time and labor, you can minimize the disruption in production, by slightly cutting back breed target and creating a smaller hole in your flow. However, this will require frequently moving sows and remodeling smaller barn sections at a time.

On the other hand, if you need the project done quickly and in the most biosecure way, creating a larger hole in the barn by moving sows off-site will open an entire barn to be remodeled. However, it can have a higher impact on production numbers and sow stress.

Clarifying your priorities for on-farm resources and identifying areas where trade-offs can be made are the first steps to determining the best process for the remodel and effectively overseeing the management of sows throughout the project.

Plan and adapt

Once priorities have been established, it's crucial to collaborate with your construction team to devise a strong plan. This includes not only creating a clear timeline for the project but also fostering open communication between the farm staff and the construction team.

Consider aspects that can be prepared for and controlled, such as determining the number of additional people at the farm, identifying necessary supplies to accommodate them, and evaluating whether daily start times for each crew need to be staggered. Establish protocols for maintaining biosecurity and designate responsible individuals to ensure their proper execution. Proactive preparation allows the focus to remain on key production tasks during construction.  

Regular communication between the farm staff and the construction team regarding daily tasks, project needs, and the allocation of crews is imperative to ensure the project progresses smoothly. Designate a point of contact from both crews to coordinate daily tasks and priorities.

While parts of the plan may inevitably change or challenges arise, stay calm and don't abandon the original plan. Instead, make necessary adjustments to realign and progress with your initial plan.

Remember: the end is just the beginning

The end of construction is not the end of the project, but rather the beginning of a new phase. Implementing a new system in the barn introduces a new routine for pigs and additional responsibilities for employees. Recognizing that training, both for employees and sows, cannot be an afterthought is a critical part of making a barn remodel successful.  

An adjustment period is expected for both sows and farm staff as they adapt to new protocols and navigate learning curves. At the crew level, the focus should remain on continuous improvement and taking ownership of new, different, or additional responsibilities that arise with the new system.

Keep in mind that the shift to a new housing system is a gradual process spanning several months, and some sows may not be genetically predisposed for success in a pen system. While significant gains in production can be seen after the initial training phase, it is important not to allow momentum to decline. As immediate improvements plateau, exploring opportunities for incremental improvement becomes essential. Rather than accept the perceived limitations of a new system, consider establishing new targets to sustain production standards.

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