A flame-resisting type of pig floor coating was launched this Tuesday, which is thought to lead to fires in pig farms accelerating considerably less fast.
A blaze in a full pig house – it certainly isn't the nicest idea to think of. Still, when it does happen, the carnage is usually endless. When flames have disappeared, what firefighters often find at the bottom of underground manure pits is a cruel mixture of molten floors, what's left of slurry and carcasses entirely consumed by fire.
Plastic can play a role in a blaze
Probably not the first thing to think of, but floors, when coated with plastic, or entirely made of plastic, can play a considerable role in intensifying any blaze. Many plastic pig farm floors are made of polyprophylane which burns well. Even stronger – it also melts when heated, transforming in some kind of soup. Thus, floors designed to hold the weight of pigs rapidly turn into weak, burning droplets falling into the manure pit below. Needless to say what happens to the pigs standing on top.
Two fairly recent devastating pig farm fires near Aalten and near Oirschot, both in the Netherlands, plus one on his own family farm located in Spain, made Gerben Nooyen, of Nooyen Pig Flooring, realise that if plastic floors play a role in accelerating a fire, this role should be reversed.
New type of coating needed designing
In order to achieve that, a new type of coating for its steel-framed pig floors was to be designed. The coating, often made of plastic – hence inflammable – should not easily catch fire. "The choice of materials and what has been added to the coating – so that is secret," said Nooyen during a demonstration at the delivery of the first batch of novel floors. He told Pig Progress, "What I can say, however, is that the new coating's surface carbonises as soon as it gets in contact with flames. This carbon layer then prevents the rest of the material to be affected."
Developing took about two years to make sure that the novel type of coating will last as long as the company's original coated product – about 15 years.
Understanding the value of fire-resistant floors
The demonstration took place at Van der Meijden farm, near Oirschot, the Netherlands – one of the farms that burnt down recently in 2013. Owner Kees van der Meijden is currently rebuilding his facility for 1,000 sows and hopes to be ready for production again in spring 2016. Needless to say he fully understood the need to use materials that can slow flames down.
In the demonstration, both a conventional plastic frame was set on fire, as well as a steel frame, coated with the novel coating. Where the conventional plastic frame in a couple of minutes broke into two while turning into a blue burning soup, on the other frame the flames disappeared quickly, with all that was remaining was a small black burning spot. (read more below the picture)
The result of a fully plastic floor after a fire - most of it has melted away.
Pig floors with classification
Within the European framework, the new coated floors have received the classification Bfl-s1. The previous type of coatings have immediately been replaced throughout Nooyen's flooring portfolio with the new 'SuperCoated' frames, for the time being at no extra cost for producers. Apart from one fully plastic weaner pig flooring option, this leaves the company's entire pig flooring portfolio to be fire-proof.