Fall harvest will begin in 3-4 weeks in the upper Midwest. With the expansion of the drought area, silage harvest is in full swing for dairies and feedlots, with some regions completed already.
All of this activity means that pit pumping will also gear up as soon as land is available for manure application. In the next few weeks I’m speaking at several events and will include reminders to producers on ventilation details that are important to remember so we don’t end up with dead pigs due to sudden spikes of hydrogen sulfide in the pig zone because of the pumping activities.
If you use a commercial pit pumper keep in mind that the pumper is not responsible for setting your ventilation system during pumping. That is the responsibility of the pig owner or contract grower. I still hear of too many situations where the pumper is told ‘ you set the ventilation – you know what you’re doing’!
This is a recipe for disaster. First off – you don’t ever want a pumper to enter your facility unless they follow your biosecurity rules (assuming you have rules and requirements). In spite of their every effort to clean equipment and vehicles between sites, it is best to assume they and their equipment arrive at your site contaminated with something you don’t want in your facility. This year that something may be the PED virus.
Pit pumpers don’t know the specifics of your ventilation system. You may have fans staged different than ‘standard’, you may have a controller they are unfamiliar with or your inlets are set in a manner they don’t understand.
While we’re all busy during the fall harvest season, the recommendation is still to have someone at the site during pit pumping. This person has knowledge of your emergency plan for the site and knowledge of your ventilation settings to provide fresh air to all pigs at all times during and shortly after the pumping activities.
By having a person on-site, you can prevent a new employee with the pumping crew from making an agitation mistake that has the recirculation nozzle break the surface of the manure or opens too many pump ports so the ventilation system works incorrectly or makes other mistakes that compromise the safety of the pigs in the facility.
At the end of the day, the pigs in the facility are the responsibility of the contract grower and/or pig owner. With a 1250 head finish room having a current market value of over $250,000, spending time at the site during pumping is a cheap investment to prevent a loss.