By Anton Ward
Territory Manager, Turkey Accounts
While every season imposes its own difficulties on birds and farms, winter can wreak havoc on air quality within your houses. This winter in particular has been dealing us some big challenges. Equipment plays a vital role in managing air quality, so today let’s talk about the best ways to manage air, heat, water and feed during winter, and how equipment maintenance can support those initiatives.
Managing Air Quality with Ventilation
Before your birds arrive, make sure all v-belts on your fans are the correct size, tight and un-cracked, and that all pulleys are turning freely with idler pulleys and tensioners kept at the right tension. Inlet air vents should be properly adjusted, ensuring they do not open or close too much or too tightly as it can put a strain on the cable or rope that operates the vents.
Double check that all fans are in working order. After bird placement, keep an eye out for dust buildup and clean shutters and fan blades as needed to keep fans running at optimum levels—allowing them to exchange air (or cool your birds depending on the season). If you have circulation fans, keep them clean and ensure your attic vents open and close as tightly as they should. Thermostats and sensors should also be kept clean, as dust can interfere with their accuracy.
Air leaking from curtains or cool cells can also create problems, so it’s important to make sure houses are tight with no areas that allow cold air to enter or hot air to escape. Apply spray foam if you find any drafts or air leaks.
For curtain-sided turkey houses, seal all holes or, if possible, replace old curtains, ensuring tight seals at the top and proper placement under the top curtain flap. Curtain pockets should be in good shape and all ropes tight to allow curtains to hang snugly against the house. Do not allow wind to blow curtains, which lets cold air in and hot air out. Curtain drops should be set and functional, allowing curtains to drop freely in the case of a power outage.
In houses with cool cells, tunnel doors should be closed tight, especially in winter months. Inspect the P-seal around the tunnel doors, replacing if needed. This is a low-cost fix that can make a big impact. When cool cells are not in use, drain the pumps, trough, spray bars and cut the water supply to avoid problems with water pipes freezing and busting during the winter months.
Keep end doors tight. If you have older style non-insulated doors, nail a tarp either on outside or inside to cover the door opening. It keeps cold air from coming in or hot air going out.
Ensure proper temperatures with heating maintenance
Your first step in heating maintenance should be to check the level of your gas tanks, even if you rely on the gas company to check and fill them. Make sure you do not have any gas leaks at the tanks or regulators.
Next, ensure all heaters are in working order before pre-heating or placement of birds. Getting water on heaters when you wash your houses can affect their performance. Check your owner’s manual to see if that is an issue. A heat gun is a low-cost investment and will help you ensure heaters are operating as they should.
There are so many different styles and types of brooders/heaters in the turkey industry. Some growers still have brooders that are winched with hand winches while others have newer heaters that are stationary and hang with cup hooks from the ceiling—so standard recommendations are difficult. If you have heaters/brooders on winches, inspect cables and safety chains regularly, and replace cable if it gets rusty or frayed.
Maintain Consumption with Functioning Watering Equipment
Access to water is vital for turkeys. Start by ensuring stand pipes are clean so you can monitor water pressure accurately. Clean the standpipes on your waterlines after each flock.
Fix and or replace leaky nipples to keep bedding dry
and keep cake from forming, as wet floors can spur health challenges.
Before birds are placed flush all waterlines and check for water leaks. Fix all broken drops on waterlines and inspect the main cable. Many growers are moving away from cable winching to cable-free winching on feed and waterlines with great success.
Adjust waterlines soon after birds are placed to ensure all birds can reach. If you still have open drinkers, especially in turkey grow out-houses, make sure all drinkers are working and adjusted for right water depth. They should be hanging level and not running over. Keeping the houses dry is very important. Ballas needs to be checked and filled with a liquid that cannot freeze in winter (see manufacturers recommendations).
Maximize Growth with Functioning Feeding Equipment
It’s vital that feedlines deliver feed every time the end control pan calls for it. To ensure that happens, start by inspecting gearboxes on overhead fill systems and feedline motors after each flock at least. Ensure gearboxes are not leaking oil and that oil levels meet the manufacturer’s recommendation.
When filling up feedlines and feed buckets, check the temperature of the gearboxes to make sure they aren’t running hot. Feedline motors and other important equipment tends to break down at the most inconvenient time when you don’t have spare parts on hand. Most anchor bearing have grease nipples, so grease the anchor bearings on your feed tanks.
Next, fix any holes in the white PVC pipe that go from feed tanks to the poultry house. If feed leaks on the ground, you’ll quickly develop a rodent problem. If you have a feed leakage from weldment or plastic boot on the feed tank, fix it while bins are empty. Also, check your hopper level switches make sure they are working correctly. Then replace all broken cable or rope on feedlines, and inspect main cables and winches to ensure they can operate correctly.
This is just the beginning
Maintaining house equipment is a complex process. The preceding was just a short reminder of basic management of house equipment. As a grower, it’s likely that your goal is to raise and deliver the best quality and healthiest bird from their farms to the table of consumer. To make that happen, keep in mind that “we never get what we expect, we only get what we inspect.” By inspecting our poultry house equipment, we can make sure our birds are fed, watered, warm and have good air to breath.