Drinker Design - Key To Minimising Waste, But Not Pig Performance

How water, which is now a costly item, as supplied to growing pigs has no effect on their performance but it can make a difference when it comes to waste and slurry volume, writes Stuart Lumb.
calendar icon 18 April 2008
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Bite Buttonball drinker

It can create up to an extra 32 tanker loads on typical 200 sow unit, according to a recently completed trial carried out at the Hillsborough, Northern Ireland Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute fronted by Dr Elizabeth Magowan.

Inadequate water intake is associated with reduced feed intake, poor daily gain, poor feed conversion, scour problems and lower feed digestibility.

Factors that can reduce water intake include contamination, high mineral content of the water, low temperature, a low flow rate, too few drinkers or poor drinker/nipple position.

Bite Nipple Drinker
"However there is a lack of information on the effect of drinker design on water intake and pig performance," commented Dr Magowan.

Three designs of drinker commonly used are:

  1. Nipple drinkers
  2. Bite drinkers and
  3. Water bowls.

The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of drinker design and position on the performance and water usage of growing pigs.

Drik-O-Mat Bowl

A total of 720 Landrace/Large White pigs weaned at four weeks of age and balanced for sex, weight and sire were split into groups of 20 and were then randomly allocated to one of six treatments over six replicates. Two drinkers were fixed in each pen of pigs. Pigs were offered water from four drinker designs, two of which were in different positions.

Treatments were as follows:

  1. Standard Drik - O - Mat bowl - 2 bowls side by side
  2. Standard Drik - O - Mat bowl - 2 bowls placed 2 metres apart
  3. Verba nipple drinker - 2 side by side
  4. Verba nipple drinker - 2 placed 2 metres apart
    Verba Bowl
  5. Halfman Bite drinker - 2 drinkers in a forked arrangement 30cm apart
  6. Jalmarsen Bite ball drinker - 2 drinkers in a forked arrangement 30cm apart.

Daily feed intake, daily liveweight gain, feed conversion ratio and water usage were determined from weaning to seven and 10 weeks of age.

"The design or the position of drinker had no effect on growth performance, feed intake or feed conversion efficiency," commented Dr Magowan.

Flow rates were measured. These were: 250ml/minute, 600ml/min, 700ml/min and 1,200ml/min for the Drik -O-Mat bowl, Verba Nipple, Halfman Bite and Jalmarsen Bite Ball drinkers respectively . Compared to the Drik-O-Mat bowl and Verba nipple drinkers water usage was greater with the Halfman Bite drinker and significantly greater ( P < 0.001) with the Bite Ball drinker treatment . Overall from 4-10weeks of age water usage where the Drik-O-Mat bowls were placed apart was significantly (P<0.001) lower than where they were placed side by side.


Neither drinker design or position had any effect on pig performance. However, significantly more water was used with the Halfman Bite and Jalmarsen Bite Ball drinkers compared to the Drik-O-Mat bowl and Verba Nipple drinkers. It is likely that the majority of the extra water used was wasted and hence potentially increased slurry volume and hence slurry storage requirements.


The study was contained in The Effect of Drinker Design and Position on Water Usage and Performance of Growing Pigs by E.Magowan and M.E.E.McCann from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Hillsborough, UK. The paper was presented at the 2008 British Society of Animal Science Meeting, Scarborough, March/April 2008.

April 2008
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