Early Identification Means Quicker Fixes

Daily inspections of a pig barn or facility are important and easy steps producers can and should take. The main advantage of a daily inspection is the early identification of any problem that might need to be resolved for individual animals, pens, and for the facility, generally. A thorough inspection should be conducted in the morning and a more general walk-through performed near the end of the day. Inspectors should pay attention to the sights, sounds, and odors of the facility to make sure nothing is obviously out of the ordinary. When a problem is discovered, immediate action should be taken to fix the issue.

Individual Pig Inspections

No matter how extensive the operation, producers should get in the habit of evaluating, at least by sight, each individual pig. While this may seem time consuming, like anything, it will become an easier, quicker process (under normal disease conditions) the more it’s done.

  • Enter the barn calmly and slowly. Observe the air-quality, as well—is there an overwhelming ammonia scent? Is the air moving? Is it damp or humid?
  • Make a general observation of their lying/resting behavior—”piling” can indicate stress.
  • Enter each pen and inspect each pig quickly, noting body condition; presence of any injuries; eye condition (open, clear); clean ears, smooth hair and skin; uninjured tail; no swollen joints and normal movement; presence of diarrhea.
  • If injured pigs are identified, move them to an isolation pen as quickly as possible for treatment.
  • Similarly, if any fall-behind pigs are noticed, move them to a fallout pen.

Pig Pen Inspections

  • The pen should be inspected for anything that can negatively affect the well-being of the animals.
  • Inspect each feeder to make sure the feed is clean and that each feeder holds the correct amount of feed.
  • Make sure water flow-rates of waterers are adequate for the number of animals in the pen. Nipple drinkers should be located at shoulder-height of the pigs.
  • Scan the pen floor for signs of diarrhea, excessive wetness, or accumulated manure.
  • Scan the pen for any structural dangers—protruding nails, wires, or bars/rods; make sure partitions are solid.
  • Make sure the pen has enough floor space for the number of pigs contained. Weather conditions will determine the amount of floor space each pig needs to be comfortable.
  • Make sure each hospital/recovery pen is warm, dry, and draft-free.
  • During warm months, be sure to evaluate the animal cooling system each morning.

Pig Barn Inspections

The emphasis of barn-level inspections is to make sure the general environment is comfortable for the pigs and that mechanical systems are functioning properly.

  • Check and record the air temperature at various locations in the facility and determine if the readings indicate a comfortable level for the animals based on age, health, and season. Note any “hot spots.”
  • Look for and note any particularly humid locations and look for wet equipment, walls, or wetness in the ceiling.
  • In a naturally ventilated facility, inspect air inlets for obstructions, wall-curtains, and sidewall doors to make sure they are properly positioned. If they are not, adjust them manually or inspect automated controls for failures.
  • Inspect any curtains for wear including holes and fraying. Make sure curtains have no gaps and are not sagging.
  • Inspect all fans, making sure:
    • Ventilation fans are operating properly
    • Temperature-activated fans are operating properly
    • Fan shutters are closed in non-operating fans
    • Fan blades and shutters are clean and operating smoothly
    • Pit fans are operating properly
  • Inspect manure pit volume to see if it’s too full for proper pit fan function/air movement and whether or not the pit needs to be emptied.
  • In summer, make sure any evaporative cooling systems are functioning properly—including the condition of pad and water/misting systems.
  • In winter, make sure there are no sidewall or window/casing cracks admitting cold air.
  • Make sure automated feed systems are operating properly.
  • Listen for any unusual mechanical sounds from fans, auger, and heaters and identify the source.

The goal of daily pig barn inspections is to head-off any trouble before it becomes a significant problem. Establishing clear inspection protocols that start each morning with individual pig, pen, and barn—level inspections will help ensure that the facility operates efficiently, animals experience good health, and producers enjoy peak production levels.

Do you perform daily inspections at your facility? Did we forget to mention anything? Tell us in the comments section!