Sudden, early summer temperatures of 95°F and higher can often catch commercial poultry producers and companies off guard. While some hot-weather mortalities cannot be prevented, producers must do everything possible to prevent as many losses as they can. To accomplish this, there are several items that producers must properly manage in order to achieve peak performance and harvest every bird possible.
In commercial poultry houses, evaporative cooling pad systems need constant attention to ensure that they are working properly. Every cooling pad should be pushed close together, held in place, and saturated with water (for maximum cooling). It is also important that these pads be as clean as possible. During tunnel evaporative cooling, it is important that all of the air enters the house through the wet cooling pads, not between, under, or over. Also, every farm should have a least one spare evaporative cooling system pump on hand in case one fails.
All tunnel air that enters a poultry house should come through the cooling pads. Air that is coming into the house through any other area should be stopped because it works against the house’s cooling potential and air flow. All sidewall vent doors, ceiling vent doors, and attic inlets must be closed as tight as possible without damaging the door.
Evaporative cooling doghouses or plenum rooms must also be as airtight as possible. Often, there are hot air leaks in the doghouse ceiling–around carpentry joints and rat holes–that can exceed 130°F. This hot air impacts the cooling pads’ ability to work properly. If these air leaks are present, producers should use spray foam to seal them as soon as possible.
Tunnel Exhaust Fans
Producers must get everything they can out of their tunnel exhaust fans. Each fan needs to receive routine inspections and tune-ups. Shutters must be kept clean, belts must be kept tightened and in like-new shape, tensioners should be doing their job, bearings must be greased, and wire exit guards must be kept clean. Producers should also make any necessary repairs in a timely manner. Doing this will ensure that each fan is running at its maximum capacity, producing every cubic foot per minute (cfm) and foot per minute (fpm) of wind chill cooling possible for large birds on hot days.
Modern commercial poultry houses are designed for wind speeds of 750 (fpm) or greater. This allows producers to better manage in-house conditions during times of extremely high temperatures. If the poultry house has this modern design, producers need to ensure that it is being used, especially if birds are panting and the controller is calling for it. During hot weather, producers should never trade a tunnel fan for an evaporative cooling pad to hold back airflow. If birds are panting or showing other signs of stress, turn more fans on. Producers should run as much dry tunnel air as the birds can handle, then supplement the running fans with evaporative cooling. All air flow obstructions–such as tunnel curtains and brood curtains–must be moved out of the air stream as much as possible to achieve maximum fpm.
Every minute counts when things go wrong. Producers must think through and practice their emergency plan scenarios. All generators, transfer switches, disconnect breakers, disconnect fuses, main-house breakers, and distribution breakers must be working properly. Producers must keep spare parts on hand. Also, all system backups, alarms, and dialers must be tested regularly.