Editor’s note: The following was written by Heidi Carroll, former South Dakota State University Extension livestock stewardship field specialist and Beef Quality Assurance coordinator, for the university’s website.
Barns and the equipment within them are a major capital investment. It makes sense to invest time in maintenance, repairs and attention to detail to ensure the longevity of structures.
Additionally, this positively impacts animal well-being and health. The Pork Quality Assurance Plus Site Assessment evaluates multiple items within the Indoor Facilities section. Questions address whether items are “in a good state of repair,” including:
- Is the penning appropriate for the phase of production and in a good state of repair and not causing or posing an imminent threat of injury to the animal?
- Is the flooring appropriate for the phase of production and in a good state of repair and not causing or posing an imminent threat of injury to the animal?
- Are the chutes in a good state of repair and not causing or posing an imminent threat of injury to the animal?
- Are the alleyways in a good state of repair and not causing or posing an imminent threat of injury to the animal?
- Are the feeders in a good state of repair to allow for unobstructed feed delivery and not causing or posing an imminent threat of injury to the pigs?
- Are the waterers in a good state of repair and positioned to allow for unobstructed water delivery and not causing or posing an imminent threat of injury to the pigs?
This article will outline three steps to manage these assessment criteria year-round, serving to protect pig well-being as well as limit the stress during your next PQA Plus Site Assessment.
Step 1. Schedule time to identify repairs
- During daily observations
- Within the written standard operating procedure (SOP) for observing animals daily, also explain any specific tasks and items to be observed with regards to facilities. After all, if employees are walking through all these areas anyway, it makes sense to consider adding a quick glance for items needing repair.
Determine how you want these observations to be recorded daily so it is not burdensome to already busy employees.
Determine a manageable way to handle the daily technology “notifications” or “alerts” from equipment within a barn, such as electronic feeding systems or waterers.
Assign one person the job of walking all facility areas to identify a list of repairs. Alternatively, you could assign certain items (e.g. penning, flooring, chutes, alleyways, feeders, waterers) to certain individuals and they only look at that item as they make their list. This technique could be accomplished by assigning each area to a specific day of the week/month and employees focus their attention on one particular item during the day.
- During internal site assessments
Facilitators are expected to complete internal site assessments on the facility, animals, caretakers, and records as part of another PQA Plus Site Assessment standard. Breeding sites need to be assessed quarterly (four times a year) and non-breeding sites need to be assessed semi-annually (two times a year).
Many grow-finish barns routinely plan maintenance tasks immediately following the emptying of the barn. The facility is clean, and walk-throughs are simple since no pigs are in pens. Grab a clipboard or notebook and document the repairs.
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This is especially helpful if a contracted crew is involved or multiple employees are involved. If one person is responsible for everything, simply fixing each item as it is identified can be more efficient.
Step 2. Record maintenance needs
The daily observation sheets can be used to record any maintenance and/or repair items. All PQA Plus materials, including template forms, are found on the Pork Checkoff website in English and Spanish.
Each employee carrying a pocket notebook may be convenient. Notebooks are good for noting repairs as they are identified. Determine the best way for employees to compile all their note pages in the office for clear communication of the repairs.
- Send text messages or instant messages
Employees can send text messages to office staff with repair notifications directly from the barn location. A mobile application like the simple Notepad function may be more useful if employees are permitted to have cell phones on the job.
- Maximize equipment notifications
Technology has advanced, and equipment sends electronic notifications or alerts to mobile devices and emails. The equipment maintains logs of notifications or alerts sent. Review equipment logs regularly and determine how it may be incorporated with other recordkeeping methods or if it is best kept separate from other maintenance and repair schedules.
Employees can simultaneously update a list of repairs from multiple devices using cloud-based documents. This option may be useful if one office or maintenance crew is responsible for multiple barn sites.
Step 3. Establish repair priorities and timelines
Once the tasks of identifying and recording repairs is complete, the last step is to prioritize when each repair will be completed. Repairs that pose injury risk to animals or people or limit water/feed intake are No. 1 — fix the problem if you are trained to do so or find someone who can fix the problem immediately.
Additionally, repairs around ventilation, heating/cooling, or manure pit safety would also be critical.
Establishing repair timelines does not need to be complicated, but it is necessary for accountability that the task will get done. Older facilities may have a daunting list of looming repairs to manage strategically as finances allow, while newer facilities may have minimal items to address. However, it is imperative to prioritize any problems that could impact pig well-being or personnel safety.
Many technologies in barns permanently record notifications and alerts. Periodically run reports and evaluate whether additional repairs or maintenance tasks should be scheduled.