This past week I was reminded by an equipment supplier to the swine industry of an on-going conversation that he and I have been having regarding maintenance schedules of equipment installed in swine facilities.
When we purchase cars, trucks or even tractors or combines, the owner’s manual that comes with the purchase includes specific recommendations as to needed maintenance and intervals to perform that maintenance. We all are familiar with the need to change the oil in our vehicles at regular intervals, the need to grease combine bearings daily, etc. Owners take great pride in following these schedules since it represents an investment that is designed to maintain the functionality of the vehicles or equipment for an extended period of time. Failure to perform routine maintenance is acknowledged by everyone to be a sure way to shorten the useful life of the vehicle or piece of equipment.
In the swine industry, we have done a poor job of creating and following maintenance schedules. As one who gets called upon to solve swine facility issues, I have the opportunity to see the impact of this failure routinely.
Just as automobiles need their engine oil changed every 3,000-7,500 miles or tractors oil changed every 100 hours or combines serviced daily, the equipment in swine facilities, and the facilities themselves have a need for routine service.
As an industry, we routinely power wash the wall fans every time we clean and disinfect a room or barn. However, how often have the pit fans been cleaned? I often get to sites where the pit fans haven’t been looked at for 3 or more years. Considering the fact that the pit fans operate more hours per year than any other fan in most facilities and they operate in an environment that is guaranteed to be harsh, routine servicing of this fan should be a high priority.
Are the shutters and fan housing cleaned frequently (a minimum of 2 times per year)? If the owner’s manual that came with the fan specifies yearly lubrication of the fan motor is this done? Can you even locate an owner’s manual for the equipment in your swine facilities?
What about greasing the gearing of curtain and ceiling inlet actuators and flex auger bearings? Is this done ‘when you think about it’ or is there a schedule so it gets done at appropriate times that extend the functional life of this equipment?
Are eave soffit inlets cleaned of debris 2x per year (or more often if necessary to maintain attic inlet openings)?
What about maintenance of the gravel rodent barrier around facilities, rodent bait boxes along these barriers or even the landscape drainage around the facility?
As you can see from this short listing, there are many items that should be on a swine facility maintenance schedule. Better to create a schedule for your facility and perform the preventative maintenance than to always be responding to an equipment crisis or calling on me for recommendations on how to make the facility functional once again.
Thank you Mr. Brumm for making some excellent points that my own experience tells me would save a tremendous amount of expense, and no small amount of stress and disruption, for producers and equipment suppliers everywhere.
Unfortunately, it tends to be human nature to often relegate regular maintenance to the “back burner”. The cost and frustration this creates, usually at the worst possible time, makes the issue of changing this counter-productive behavior and habits a major priority.
Keep up the good work!