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Water Management

05 July 2013

Tips on providing adequate water for pigs without waste from Jaydee Smith, Swine Specialist with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in 'Pig News & Views'.

Water is an invaluable natural resource and an essential input in animal production. It is the responsibility of everyone to protect this shared resource while using it responsibly.

Responsible management of water in livestock production means meeting the water needs of livestock with safe, palatable water while ensuring minimal leakage and waste. Beyond being a conservation issue, unnecessary use increases manure storage and handling requirements, which has cost implications. Also, spilled water indoors can increase humidity and decrease air quality, affecting human and animal health, and condensation can speed corrosion, reducing the life span of facilities and equipment. So, consider those potential costs when assessing water conservation measures.

Some other considerations include:

  • The greatest opportunities for water conservation are simply eliminating leaks, and using efficient, properly adjusted watering systems.
  • Make sure animals, especially young pigs, have something other than the drinker to play with.
  • Make sure that drinking water is of good quality so that animals do not waste water.
  • Make sure that containers being filled do not run over - install float shut-off systems for routine filling operations.
  • Nipple drinkers for pigs are inherently inefficient. Bowls can be installed under nipple drinkers to catch the excess water, which can then be used by the animals.
  • Restricted water supplies increase variation in growth performance in groups of growing pigs. As with feeder space, some animals may not get adequate access to water, which can reduce feed intake and therefore growth. Adding another drinker can have dramatic results. Also, check nipple drinker performance and position - do not depend on the manufacturer’s specification since flow rate can change over time with the accumulation of minerals, etc. See the table below for recommendations from the 'Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals - Pigs'.
  • Wet-dry feeders have been shown to reduce water wastage, and may even improve pig performance. If you are considering making changes to your facilities, you might want to look into wet-dry feeders. It has been reported that barns using wet-dry feeders used 30 per cent less water than barns using dry feeders. This was reflected in lower volumes of liquid manure production.
  • Care should be taken when pressure washing to ensure that the necessary hygiene is achieved without using more water than is necessary. Foaming agents, pre-soaking, and high pressure washers improve the effectiveness of washing with water. This is an area where careful use of water can make large differences in the volume used.
  • Spray or mist animal cooling systems can be effective used in an on-off cycle, instead of running continuously.
  • It may be worth investigating the collection and storage of rainwater from roof run-off for washwater.
Recommended water flow rates and nipple drinker heights for pigs of different sizes
Size of pigs Flow rate (litres/minute) Height of nipples1 (cm)
First week 0.3 15
Weaner pig or starter 0.5 - 1.0 20
Grower 1.0 - 1.5 20 - 30
Finisher 1.0 - 1.5 30 - 40
Boar 2.0 50 - 61
Gestating sow 2.0 50 - 61
Lactating sow 2.0 50 - 61

1. Based on nipple being at 90° angle from the wall. Height would be higher for a 45° angle sloping down, or lower for a 45° angle sloping up.

Just being aware of the need to conserve water can be enough to lead people to improve water use substantially. Make sure the people working in your operation are aware of the need to avoid waste, without compromising the water consumption of the animals or building cleanliness. Prudent use of resources is part of good management practices.

July 2013

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