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Hog slat replacement made simple

By Staff | Oct 26, 2015

MCKEE AND MOLLIE CLARK, of Laurens, started Gray Field LLC in 2014, a separate entity from their Clark Construction business.

By DARCY

DOUGHERTY

MAULSBY

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LAURENS – Have an aging hog barn? Are cracks appearing in the concrete slats, along with signs of feeder slat wear and tear? What about exposed aggregate or rebar in the hog slats?

A LAURENS-BASED COMPANY has developed a method for replacing hog slats using existing entries without cutting holes in the sidewalls.

“All these conditions should be inspected,” said McKee Clark, who owns and operates Gray Field LLC near Laurens. “Addressing these issues can prevent costly downtime and emergency hog slat failures.”

Gray Field has become a leader in hog slat replacement services across Iowa and the Midwest by offering turnkey solutions.

The company’s crew of independent contractors, full- and part-time employees complete repair work during a turn when the barn is empty.

Through the years, Gray Field has designed, built and custom-engineered its own equipment so slats can be removed and replaced through existing entry and exit points.

This eliminates the need to cut a hole in the sidewall, Clark said, which otherwise creates extra work, adds expense, and makes a job take longer.

“Our solution means pre-work stops at cleaning the barn,” Clark said. “We take it from there to remove gating and feeders, remove and replace hog slats, and re-install gating and feeders so the barn is ready for load-in.”

The whole process can typically be completed in five days or less.

“Minimal downtime without damage to the building structure is our area of expertise,” Clark said.

Extending barn life

Providing this service was a natural outgrowth for Clark. After 16 years in construction handling jobs related to hog confinement construction and repair, he said, the demand for concrete slat repair services created a business opportunity.

“We saw a way to serve fellow Iowans in need of a better, faster, safer way to replace structurally unsound and unsafe hog confinement floors,” said Mollie Clark, who serves as Gray Field’s office manager.

While Clark Construction had offered these services since 2008, the Clarks created a separate company, Gray Field LLC, in 2014 to focus specifically on hog slat replacement, beam and column replacement, and detailed pit inspections.

The Clarks also expanded their services beyond Iowa to serve pork producers in other Midwest states.

With a motto of “Done Right. Done Fast,” Gray Field’s business has grown through word-of-mouth.

The time is right for these services, since many hog confinement buildings are 10, 15 or 25 years old.

“Slatted concrete flooring that ages and fails can cause the loss of livestock and a significant, costly disruption to a producer’s operation,” McKee Clark said. “Pork producers throughout Iowa and the Midwest realize that reinvestment into their hog confinements is necessary to make sure their business operations won’t be disrupted due to a structural failure with concrete slats, beams or columns.”

Increased safety

While repairs are an option for surface-level maintenance, slat replacement is the only way to prevent slat failure by addressing the root problem of the concrete slat, beam or column, McKee Clark said. “Hog-slat replacement is critically important and is a smart investment in a swine operation.

“It will extend the life of your buildings, improve operations and increase worker and livestock safety.”

As slatted concrete flooring above a manure pit experiences wear and tear, cracks in the concrete can start to form from the bottom.

Once this happens, it doesn’t take long for moisture to reach the steel rebar and begin to wear away at the remainder of the slat.

“This causes the hallmark warning signs of exposed aggregate or rebar and cracks,” McKee Clark said. “While you can see damage on the top, the damage is often three to four times worse on the bottom.”

In addition to repair services, Gray Field offers detailed pit inspections.

Growers receive an assessment of the concrete structures that are crucial to the integrity of their entire confinement system.

“Knowing the true condition of your slats, columns and beams is a huge benefit,since you can put a plan in place to take care of structural issues before it’s too late,” said McKee

Clark said it’s common to see slipped or broken beams and chipped columns that soon lead to slat failure.

“In our experience, for every problem slat you see from the top, there are three to four times that need to be addressed, since slat deterioration often starts from the bottom.”

Helping producers prevent emergency situations and remain in peak production keeps the Gray Field team motivated.

“We’ve seen growers get involved in lawsuits and lose contracts because of slat and structural failure,” Mollie Clark said. “It feels great to know we keep Iowa’s growers their swine operations safe and profitable.”

The Gray Field crew said it enjoys meeting farmers across Iowa and the Midwest and supporting their rural communities.

“When we’re on a job site, we do business with local lumberyards and supply stores, eat at local mom-and-pop restaurants, and stay at local community hotels,” McKee Clark said. “It doesn’t get much better than living in Iowa and serving local Iowans.”

For more information about Gray Field, log onto www.grayfieldslat.com, or call (712) 450-0112 to line up a site inspection.

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