Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Building farrowing pens / gates mounted on concrete blocks

The finished pens - I haven't put in the wood back wall yet. 
This is a pen design that costs me about $250 per pen; the breakdown is at the bottom of this post. Most of the cost of the pen is the gate.

I've been consolidating all of my pigs into one barn on the farm; mostly to save labor and do a better job of being able to take care of the animals.  Most full-time farmers, and I'm no exception - expand the activities on the farm until there's basically no working time left.  By putting all of the pigs into one area it's easier and faster to care for them, and that labor savings means I can do a bit more with the time.
basic layout:  my little trackhoe in the background

The farrowing pens I'm picturing here are 6' deep by 9' wide; by trial and error I've found that this is a size that is large enough for the sow to stand up and move around, make a nest that she feels good about, and gives the piglets enough room so that the sow doesn't squish them by standing on them.
I use a 4x6 block set on edge for the bottom clearance for the gate when I'm mounting it
 What I'm showing here is double row of pens;  The concrete blocks we call "ecology blocks" for reasons I'm not clear about.  They're 6'x2'x2', and weigh about 3600lbs each.  Pigs really aren't good at climbing, so a 4' tall wall around the pen is sufficient, and actually makes it nice for humans to work in, too.  It's pretty easy to see over and into the pen, and in a pinch it's low enough that you can hop over the wall, or walk on top of it.  The ecology blocks are pretty solid.
I use a hammer drill to drill the holes into the concrete.  Make sure to blow the dust out with compressed air after drilling!
 I use ecology blocks because they're cheap - I buy mine for $5 each at a local cement plant.  I have a 20,000lb trailer (dual tandom axle) and I can carry 6 of them at a time with it.  I use my big tractor to pick them off of the trailer and set them into place, and then my small trackhoe to do the final positioning.
The epoxy is expensive, but I've had much better luck with epoxied anchors than non-epoxied.  
 So there are 4 blocks on each side, and they're spaced so that the area between is 9' wide.  that's because my tractor and skidsteer have an 8' bucket, and I'm setting this up so that these pens can be cleaned using equipment.  The easier things are to clean the more often they will get cleaned.

The 4 blocks have a space between them (see board at bottom of block)
 To clean you pull the wood wall from between the pens, and then just scrape the thing into the aisle.  Pressure wash and sanitize if you want a very clean job -- in case of disease, for instance -- and then replace the wood wall and done.
I use 2 2x6 boards side by side; the wall between this stall and the one on the other side will be wood
 I'm building these stalls in a converted freestall barn.  the concrete floor underneath is sloped from the center out both ways, which works very well for what I'm doing for it, but does make it a little more complicated for the center wall.  The gap at the bottom is much smaller than the gap at the top - see the picture below.

Spacing between blocks shown
I'll add an automatic water system to each stall, mounted on the gate.  I mount it on the gate so that it's easy to maintain from outside the pen (sows can be aggressive when they have pigs) and so that any water spilled will run out of the pen, not into the bedding, which I want to keep as dry and warm as possible.
Since I have lots of space to mount the bolt I use long bolts.  Above the bolt is the drill bit used to drill the concrete
 If you're going to do this sort of project, it's worth either renting or buying a good hammer drill.  I use an SMS type drill, and it makes quick work of the holes drilled; takes about 15 seconds to drill a 12" hole in solid concrete.
After you drill the bolt I use this 3lb hammer to put it in.  

Once pounded in, the nut is tightened to anchor the bolt.  I then remove the nut and mount the gate
 I've used this sort of anchor bolt before, and I've been much happier after I've used epoxy.  These ecology blocks aren't always as solid as you like (see the picture above) and if there are holes or pockets in the block, the epoxy will actually fill it in and make it stronger.
Might as well have level gates - so they don't close or open on their own, mostly!

I mount this ring inside the pen for a latch and epoxy it in.  
 I prefer gate latches that can be operated with one hand, and that aren't very complicated.  I use this sort of stainless steel fitting.  the eye bolt is 8" long I think, and I drill a hole deep enough to put the whole thing in.  Then epoxy the bolt in, and in 24 hours it's solid.
a spring carabiner provides a secure and one-handed gate latch.  
Cost breakdown:

One pen:
4 ecology blocks $20
7 2x6x12' boards $42
10' heavy-duty gate $170
4 7" anchor bolts $10
1 eye bolt $3
1 stainless carabiner $5

Tools needed:
sms hammer drill & 1/2" diameter 12" long drill bit
3lb hammer
crescent wrench
tape measure

To get the ecology blocks I used a 20,000lb trailer
to pick them off of the trailer I used a kubota m125x
to position them I used a kubota  kx121-3

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