An Introduction to Barn Curtains
An Alternative to Rigid Siding
Your barn is home to your livestock and your livestock are central to your livelihood. Whether you are considering upgrades to your facility or trying to maximize livestock productivity, it’s important not to overlook the importance of light, ventilation, and overall climate control. Better environmental conditions can lead to better yield which means increased profits. Animals reared in poorly lit and poorly ventilated facilities are less productive and prone to a myriad of diseases. Investing in a high-quality agricultural curtain system for your facility may make a lot of sense.
The Benefits of Barn Curtains
There are many benefits associated with the use of barn curtains in agricultural buildings. Barn curtains give you a high degree of ventilation, insulation, and lighting control when compared with rigid siding materials like wood or metal. Depending on the time of year, barn curtains provide cooling or warmth. They are excellent tools for managing dust, methane and ammonia, moisture and mold, and airborne diseases, all of which can represent respiratory health risks to your livestock, particularly in young animals. In summer, curtains mitigate reliance on fans and expensive HVAC systems because they can open side and endwalls allowing natural air to circulate through the facility.
Another important advantage of livestock curtains is light control. It is a well-established fact that animal production is linked to daylight. Curtains are available in various colors and thicknesses, all of which provide the producer with more control of when and how much light enters a facility. When combined with traditional overhead lighting, this sort of control can be exploited to manipulate livestock production to a producer’s advantage, particularly in dairy and poultry facilities.
How Barn Curtains Function
Barn curtains typically work in roll-up or drop-down systems, and are powered by motors or moved manually with the use of a hand crank. Some systems offer the producer both roll-up and drop-down options. Each system has its advantages. Drop-down systems are particularly useful around young animals unaccustomed to drafts. Air enters the barn through the top of the wall rather than near the floor, mixing fresh air with warm air trapped at the roof, providing ventilation without exposing animals to the shock of sudden temperature changes. Widely used in freestall barns, roll-up curtains provide a sudden and significant increase of fresh air at floor-level that can quickly cool hot environments.
The Advantage of Automation
Weather is always changing and a farmer can’t be at the beck and call of his barn curtains, adjusting them through the day. Most suppliers offer automation for their curtain systems in the form or thermostatic controls. Automation frees the farmer to attend to other important tasks knowing that his livestock are comfortable at the temperature he desires.
It makes sense to take full advantage of any advancements in livestock barn design and there’s little reason to be hand-cranking curtains up and down when the technology exists to do it for you. Rain and temperature sensors are available and can be useful tools for controlling ventilation if, for example, only one side of a facility is getting wind-blown rain or too much direct sun. Automation does introduce the need to perform periodic motor maintenance, but the inconvenience of any regular maintenance is outweighed by the benefits a curtain system provides.
Barn Curtain Considerations
Curtain material is a central consideration. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. While your upfront costs might be lower with a more affordable (cheaper) material, in the long run it may be a wiser choice to purchase quality material. Cheaper material will break down more quickly and necessitate an earlier replacement (with replacement costs) than will a higher quality curtain. Any down time is an interruption to your operation and is a potential hit to your bottom line.
Since the curtain is effectively a wall, minor rips and tears reduce their effectiveness. Ripped curtains allow unwanted cold or heat into the facility. Well-constructed curtains will last longer and provide the producer with a more consistent and controlled environment for his livestock.
Curtains come in a variety of weights, colors, and insulations. Some curtain material is also flame-resistant. Since different areas of the country experience different weather patterns, it makes sense to research the materials available and think through their potential effectiveness for your location and your livestock needs.
Breathable vs. Non-Breathable
Breathable curtains sound great. In summer, it’s often desirable to have “breathable” clothes. With respect to barn curtains, however, being breathable is not necessarily a good thing. Breathable curtains do allow more air to pass through them than non-breathable curtains, but that also means the producer has less control over ventilation.
Similarly, curtain color is also important. Blackout curtains allow the least amount of light into the barn. This can be critical as many livestock—poultry in particular—are sensitive to light and controlling the hours of light they experience can be important for managing productivity. Here, again, curtain quality is important—cheap blackout curtains may not be as effective as premium material, letting in more light than you want (and paid for).
On the other hand, clear or translucent curtains allow for maximum light, which can be useful for lowering energy costs. Again, do the research needed before making a purchase.
As mentioned, a high quality curtain will last longer and save you money in repair and new installation/repair costs. In addition to saving money, you’ll also be providing your livestock with more protection for a longer period of time. And that’s the whole idea. Using high quality curtains means less disruption to your stock and their habits, which means happier animals and a better yield for the producer.
Does your facility use a curtain system? Tell us about your experience in the comments section!