Pork Insight Articles

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Barn Integrity Assessment Checklist

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Press Releases by admin on December 2, 2014

On the third week of March 2014 pork producers saw something they had never seen before – individual pigs sold for more than $300 each. The fact that this coincided with moderating grain prices meant that margins had never been better in recent memory (last 7 years). Now what? Although there is plenty of debt to soak up these margins, there is a noticeable change in perceptions on the future of the pork industry. A new future could be imagined that included facility and equipment renewal. Over the next 2 years there will be plans and purchase decisions made to address pent up demand by facilities and their managers to address the repair and maintenance concerns of pig barns.  Nationally we have an aging ‘fleet’ of barns, with the last big building effort concentrated between 1991 and 1998; these barns have seen more than half their productive life, even with good maintenance. This is complicated by the fact the maintenance and repairs over the past 7 years have been well below the level required to keep the ‘fleet’ in tip top shape. Some barns have passed their ‘best before date’, but for those barns we want to remain operational for the next 20 years we need to consider reinvestment.  The challenge, there are many demands and few resources so how do you decide where the first dollar should be spent?

It would be nice to “have an app for that” but the complex considerations of capital vs operational investments, people vs infrastructure, and short-term vs long-term return on investment make analysis of this ‘apples and oranges’ comparison very challenging. We challenged ourselves to consider what kind of a tool might assist in making these decisions logical and a good contributor to profitability. We also saw this challenge of barn reinvestment choices being influenced by personal preference, and rather than money spent being a positive influence on future cash flow and profitability, they could be simply expenditures on ‘my favourite things’.

Here is a checklist approach to making objective barn investment decisions. We considered a simple approach using a combination of perceived risk of not making a change in each area, and the impact of a worst case scenario if catastrophic failure of that overlooked area was to occur. Our suggestion is you take a walk around and through the entire barn; you may want to have someone accompany you since perception of risk and impact is subjective and the exercise could benefit from a second opinion. You will also want to take a few tools with you to poke and prod and assess equipment and structure. This is where the title of this article comes in, “Shining a light…” is a direct reference to your need to have a high intensity flashlight with you to inspect below slats, in attics and behind pillars and equipment. We recommend at least 200 ft candle power (as little as $50) and better yet 800 ft candle lights, an inexpensive investment that will bolster your judgment with greater clarity in important areas such as assessing concrete cracks and rafter strength. The other tools you will need include a ladder tall enough to allow you to get on the roof, a small ladder in the barn for accessing attic hatches, and in the tool belt a screwdriver and knife for scrapping and digging, perhaps a can of fluorescent paint to mark areas for re-inspection in the future.

The following Risk Assessment Checklist looks at four areas of consideration (Biosecurity, Structural, Utilities, Operational), certainly more could have been added but in balancing the need for brevity and ease of use against being all encompassing we opted for a quick tool that will reveal the areas of greatest need and allow you to pursue an action plan or seek professional structural or other engineering and construction advice. A special note regarding safety for people working in barns; the structural and utility sections of the checklist identify safety considerations, for example marked exits, emergency egress exits and fire separation to increase time to exit the building, these may not have been part of the original barn plan but should be considered essential upgrades as we evaluate our barn structures.

A special thanks to Murray Elliot, of FGC Limited (Stratford, Ontario) for his valued input into this project.

To view the full document and assessment check list please click on the following link.

Barn Integrity Checklist

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