Make Sure Pigs Have Enough Water In Summer

By Dr. Todd See, Swine Genetics Specialist, North Carolina State University - Water is not only essential for swine survival, it is also a critical nutrient for growth, maintenance of pregnancy, and weight gain during lactation. In hot weather, the pig’s dependence on water to keep cool and maintain performance becomes even more critical. With summer upon us, consider taking time to assess your operation’s watering situation.
calendar icon 22 May 2006
clock icon 4 minute read
Dr Todd See
Swine Genetics Specialist
North Carolina State University


Addressing the pig’s water needs can be done from a supply and demand perspective. If enough good quality water is supplied to meet the pig’s biological needs, performance will not suffer. But if the pig’s demand for water exceeds the available supply, the pig will not grow and develop to its genetic potential. However, supplying water to the growing pig can be confounded by the need to reduce the amount of liquid entering the manure management system.

Temperature greatly influences the pig’s water needs as pigs use water to help reduce body heat. When the environmental temperature rises from 59 to 95 degrees, the water needs of a 75-pound pig can increase by 57 percent and that of a 250-pound pig increases 63 percent.

Water systems should be checked regularly for any signs of contamination. The quality of the water may affect intake, nutrient digestibility, and pig performance. Total dissolved solids (TDS) should not exceed 6,000 to 7,000 ppm. The mineral content and microbial safety of your water source should be routinely monitored. In-line filters and traps can help improve water quality on some farms.

Watering devices should be maintained frequently to prevent leaks, screens should be cleaned, and adequate flow to the pig should be assured. The recommended flow from a nipple drinker is 750 ml/minute for a growing pig and 1,000 ml/minute for a finishing pig. Flow rate can be checked by using a measuring container to collect the water flowing from drinkers for one minute and comparing it to the recommended rate for the age of pig and type of waterer.

Pigs will remain at waterers for only a limited amount of time. This means there must be an adequate number of waterers available per pen and the flow rate must be adequate to satisfy the pigs’ needs quickly.

Note that stray voltage on watering devices frequently limits water intake. This electrical charge can be measured with a good voltmeter and an isolated ground. As little as 0.5 to 1 volt may reduce pigs’ water intake under certain conditions. Check with your electric utility supplier for assistance.

Gate-mounted nipple waterers should be adjusted frequently to a height just above the pigs’ shoulders to prevent injuries and carcass bruising. Also, the screens in your watering devices should be cleaned regularly. Dirty filters restrict water flow, and pigs need to quench their thirsts quickly.

Consider replacing older equipment with water-saving drinkers. Standard fixed nipple waterers tend to result in excessive water waste, especially during warm weather. Swinging nipple waterers may reduce water use by 10 to 25 percent, compared to fixed nipples. Some modern bowl type nipple drinkers may reduce water disappearance by 20 to 35 percent, compared to standard fixed nipples. Integrating the drinker nipple into the feeder (wet/dry type) has resulted in a 33 percent reduction in liquid manure production, which equates to reduced waste of water and feed combined.

Reproduced Courtesy

Source: North Carolina State University Extension Swine Husbandry - May 2006
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