Hog Farming category archive

Four Questions Every New Grower Should Ask Their Builder 0



Not all turnkey contracts and turnkey builders are the same. Knowing what to ask the potential contractors bidding on your project helps you avoid additional costs when or if problems occur during construction.




1) Financial Strength.

A typical production site will cost from $350,000 upwards to $2,000,000 or more. For a project costing one million dollars, the builder will need to have the financial resources capable of paying for $500,000 of materials and labor. Also, most contractors will have several projects in varying stages of construction, meaning a typical builder may need a line of credit of several million dollars.


To protect your investment ask the contractor for a copy of their latest balance sheet to assess whether the contractor net worth is adequate for the project. If the builder is uncomfortable providing that type of information to you, require them to provide a payment and performance bond from a reputable insurer. Always consult your lender to determine if they are comfortable with the contractor’s financial condition.


2) Builders Risk and Workers’ Comp.

Unless required by the lender many contractors do not include builders risk insurance as part of their contract. Without this coverage, the owner is liable for any damages to the structure or building materials during the construction process.


The amount of Workers’ Compensation insurance a contractor is required to carry varies from state to state. The main provisions of this insurance should include coverage for any subcontractors working on the project, and this coverage is enforceable in the state where the work is performed. It is not uncommon for contractor or subcontractor’s policy to only apply to their home state.


You should insist any potential contractor provide you with a Certificate of Insurance indicating builders risk coverage for the amount of the contract along with general liability insurance of at least $2 million per occurrence and also listing the states covered by the agreement. You as the building owner may also want to be listed as an additional insured on the policy, so you have the ability to make claims on the policy if the contractor will not. Consider raising the general liability amount to $5-10 million on sow farms and remodel projects as substantial damage can result from work performed on operational farms.


3) Site Supervision

Adequate site supervision is subject to broad interpretation that varies by each contractor. Unless it is a complicated remodel or very large project, it is unreasonable to expect a job supervisor to be on site every day during the construction process. You should, however, expect the job supervisor to schedule frequent meetings with you to review and inspect the work in progress. Also be aware that many contracts do not provide for unloading trucks, dumpster rental, portable restrooms, and site cleanup. Failing to add these items in writing to the contract may cost you thousands in additional out of pocket costs.


4) Production Equipment

When faced with competitive bidding situations one of the methods used by contractors to reduce their price is to change the equipment supplied in the package. It is common for equipment manufacturers to offer special pricing to area builders during an expansion phase. This usually results in the poor installation of unfamiliar feeding, watering and ventilation equipment along with dubious warranty claims later. Ask the contractor to provide you with a list of completed projects with the same brands of equipment specified in the contract.

Protect your investment by requiring bidders on your project to provide you with the correct documentation. This allows you to limit your exposure to financial risk during and after the construction process.






Cool Cell Maintenance | An Engineer’s View 0



“When it comes to evaporative cooling most of the equipment problems we see are failures to do routine maintenance,” explained Tyler Marion, an engineer with Hog Slat Inc. located in Newton Grove, NC. “Evaporative cooling is really a pretty simple concept, but you have to perform basic maintenance tasks to keep the system operating correctly.”



Flush, Don’t Bleed

A standard industry practice involves “bleeding-off” a percentage of the recirculation water to prevent a buildup of scale on the pads. Scale is the mineral deposit left on the pad when the water evaporates. While bleeding-off is better than nothing, a much better practice is to dump all the water from the trough and replenish with fresh water that in turn helps to flush the containments out of the cool cell pads. How often the trough needs to be drained depends on the hardness of the water and how often the evaporative system operates. Monitoring the PH level is a useful method to determine when to change the water with readings above 8.5 indicating an excessive mineral buildup.


Use Preventive Chemical Treatments.

Paired with frequent water flushing, adding descalers and microbicides to the recirculating water pays big dividends in extending pad life. Descalers help keep minerals in suspension for more efficient flushing while microbicides reduce the growth and buildup of algae, bacterial and fungal slimes on the pads.   Never use chlorine bleaches to kill algae. Chlorine attacks the glue in the pads causing delamination.


Adjust the Float.

One of the most common reasons for premature failure occurs when water logged pad bottoms become soft and sag down.   Just because water doesn’t spill out of the trough when the system shuts down doesn’t mean the float is adjusted correctly. When properly set the water level should be 1″ below the bottom of the pads. It is critical to check the water level in new installations after running the system for several days.

Be on the lookout for trough levelness to change as the building settles and the framing shifts. Also, as the pads age, they retain more water making float valve adjustments necessary.


Clean the Trash Out

Trash and debris in the pump trap and water line filters reduce the amount of water circulating through the system. A telltale sign of reduced water flow is dry or streaked pads at the end opposite of the pump. Failing to remove debris from the trash basket on a jet pump also reduces its useful life. Clean the holes in the distribution pipe whenever dry streaks appear on the pad. Open the ball valve on distribution pipe opposite the pump end and run the system to flush out any gunk from inside the pipe at least once a month.


Winterize the System.

Shutting off the water supply and draining the system are the basics for preparing an evaporative system for winter. In addition, remove the pump from the system and move it to inside storage. Just disconnecting the plumbing fittings and leaving the pump in place leads to damaged impellers and cracked housings.


Performing basic maintenance allows evaporative cooling systems to operate efficiently and delays costly pad replacement.






Slat Design Aids Pig Welfare 0



Inappropriate or poorly maintained slatted floors are the most common causes of physical injuries to pigs. Pigs with foot or joint pain will not get up as often to eat and drink resulting in lower Average Daily Gain and reduced performance.   The industry movement to group gestation housing also means better flooring is necessary to prevent injuries to heavy sows in open pens.   By some estimates, lame sows can cost producers from $180 -$400 for each animal suffering from foot-related problems.


Well designed slats promoting good animal welfare possess several common characteristics. They are manufactured from high-density concrete, have a level, flat top for ease of walking and a uniform slat opening.


Manufacturing high quality begins with the slump of concrete. The less water added to the concrete, the stronger the slat. Dry-cast concrete, having a zero slump, only uses enough water to begin the chemical reaction.   When excess water is added to make the concrete easier to form, the excess moisture evaporates; creating pores in the concrete and reduces its strength and durability. The lower cement-water ratio in dry cast slats yields a finished product with higher strength and durability with fewer repairs needed over its useful life.


Dry cast, machine-finished slat production requires fewer molds than comparable wet cast, hand-finished slats. Fewer molds mean less variation and a more consistent final product with a flat, level top and uniform slat openings.



The level surface provided by flat top slats reduces joint injuries from twisting and slipping on uncomfortable floors. Uniform slat openings prevent the pigs’ legs from getting caught in a narrowing opening and damaging their toes and claws.


Keep slats in good condition by using quick setting, abrasion resistant mortars to repair any exposed aggregates as normal wear occurs. Cover surfaces around feeders and waterers with an epoxy overlay coating to protect the concrete from acid compounds and heavy pig traffic. For more information on repairing concrete slats download “The Field Guide To Slat Repair and Replacement.”  


Well made concrete slats and proper maintenance provide pigs and sows with comfortable flooring to reduce foot and leg injuries.




Static Pressure Key to Troubleshooting Ventilation 0



With the summer heat settling in it’s not uncommon for ventilation problems to start showing up in broiler houses and swine gestation/ breeding buildings. Even facilities that have performed well in the past may experience issues.   One of the best yardsticks for evaluating a ventilation system is measuring wind speed. Windmeters ranging from an inexpensive smartphone unit to dedicated handheld devices are used to measure wind speed in feet per minute.


If the wind speed is lower than desired the next step is to check the static pressure with either a portable manometer or on the ventilation control monitor.   With the ventilation system operating at full capacity, the house pressure should be between .05 to .08″. Some broiler facilities will experience higher pressure due to increased air requirements.

If the static pressure is high, the most likely cause is restricted airflow through cool cell pads clogged with scale or algae.


Scale is the buildup of minerals hard water leaves behind as it evaporates during the cooling process. Heavy deposits of scale require the use of a broom to dislodge the debris and then rinsing them off the pad with a low-pressure hose nozzle. The best way to deal with scale is to prevent it from forming in the first place. Adding a descaler treatment to the water helps keep the minerals in suspension and prevents them from sticking to the pad.


Nutrients in the water allow algae to grow and block the openings in the pad. Adding algaecides to the recirculating water kills the algae and prevents it from re-establishing. Allowing the pad to dry completely for several hours each day also stops algae growth.


But by far the most important management practice for cool cell maintenance is to drain and replace the water often. Even with the use of chemical agents, a build up of contaminants occurs in the trough. How often to replace the water depends on water quality and the amount of the time the system operates each day. Once a month is an absolute minimum during periods of heavy use to flush grit and dirt from the system.


If the static pressure is too low, the first reaction is to add fans to increase airflow.   In many cases, especially in buildings where the airflow seemed adequate before, replacing the fan belts and/or pulleys will restore proper air flow.   Slippage caused by worn belts and pulley cause fans to be less efficient and air delivery to suffer by as much as 20%. Plan to replace all fan belts on an annual basis with the metal pulleys needing replacement about every four years.   A visual check after installing new belt should show the belt riding high in the pulley groove. If the belt sinks into the groove, then the pulley should be replaced.


Routine, scheduled maintenance on fans and evaporative systems is fundamental to providing broilers and pigs with adequate cooling during hot weather extremes.


By Austin Baker
Ventilation Director
Hog Slat Inc.




Chinese 5,000 Sow “Mountain Farm” 0

Video tour of a 5000-sow farm located on a mountaintop near ShenNonh Dali in the Sichuan Province of China.

This remote sow unit produces and tests breeding stock from an 896 crate farrowing house, 4400 stall gestation building, 50 place boar stud, GDU/ Iso barn, and 15-room testing facility. Hog Slat designed the unit and supplied AirStorm fiberglass fans; feeding equipment including feed bins, sow drops, and Grow-Disk systems. Hog Slat’s SowMAX feed dispensers provide simple, dependable ad lib sow feeding in the farrowing crates.