Facility Focus: Back to the Curtain Management Basics

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As the calendar pages flip, we once again hit that season—the air turns cold, and the moisture begins to creep in. Dairy producers sprint to draw their facility curtains to guard against the cold. Indeed, the natural response to that chilly breeze is to pull the curtains closed and seal up those barns.
But here's where things get paradoxical. Reducing ventilation and air exchange may seem like a smart choice, but it's like signing up for trouble. So let's explore why that is.
Winter comfort for cows and calves feels like walking a tightrope. Mike Wolf, a DVM and consulting veterinarian for VES-Artex, spills the secret. It's about finding that sweet spot - keeping your animals snuggly warm yet ensuring enough air exchange. It is necessary, the yin and yang of wintertime animal care.
Management of the curtains is all about balance, according to Wolf. Open them up too much, and while you invite more fresh air in, you're also rolling out the welcome mat for rain and snow. But that's not the only concern. If the air doesn't enter the building directly, it tends to swirl around, leading to stagnant and stale conditions. The trick? Ensure the curtains are adjusted just right to let air flow at a perpendicular angle, preventing unwanted natural elements from entering. Controlling the curtain inlet is crucial for those using power-ventilated and cross-vent barns. This positioning ensures fresh air is distributed evenly within the barn.
Wolf emphasizes the significance of sticking to the fundamentals of winter curtain management. He suggests the following key principles:

Conduct bi-annual curtain maintenance

Curtain maintenance is vital, not just during the winter but also in the warmer months. It's essential to inspect them at least twice a year. This way, you can spot and address any tears and ensure equipment functionality.
However, there's a common mistake to watch for in the summer. Leaving curtains rolled up at the bottom of a building's inlet may seem harmless, but it can become an open invitation for rodents. These pesky creatures can chew significant holes, resulting in undesirable drafts and even curtain malfunctions. So, ensure you inspect and mend any holes, lubricate moving parts, and keep your curtains in tip-top shape, especially before the chill sets in.

Follow standard airflow requirements

When it comes to airflow monitoring, sidewall curtains are essential. The rule of thumb is: For every 10 feet in width, you need to open them by at least an inch,". Do the math: a 60-foot-wide barn would require an opening of 6 inches on either side.
But don't overlook the ridge opening in the middle of the barn. It ought to be open by at least two inches for every ten feet of width. So, a sprawling 100-foot barn? That's a 20-inch opening right there. Remember, the barn needs to breathe. It's the key to optimizing natural ventilation in cold weather.
In addition, top-drop drapes left slightly open can expel heated, stuffy air via the roof. In cross-vent and tunnel-ventilated barns, air should enter from the sidewall at speeds between 800 and 1,000 feet per minute. Doing this will mix with the warmer air before it reaches the cows.

Leverage the Power of Automation

Ever found yourself juggling curtain levels for the perfect ventilation? Let's get real; although ventilation is important, manually operating curtains can be a real hassle. You could spend a lot of time and effort tweaking curtain levels to suit different conditions; ever found yourself juggling with curtain levels for that perfect ventilation?
But fret not; here comes automation, your new barnyard bestie. Mechanical controllers offer a simple yet effective solution. They relieve the stress of constant manual adjustments. Think of automatic curtain openers as a handy assistant, cutting down on chores and ensuring your cows and calves breathe easy with the fresh air they need.
So, as winter approaches, let's not overcomplicate things. Concentrate on the basics: routine maintenance to prevent any possible problems and airflow monitoring to ensure a steady supply of fresh air. And why not make life a little easier? Consider implementing basic automation and watch how it transforms your ventilation strategy this winter.

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