Plenty of Good Water Important for Pigs

By Bert Dening, BSc. Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. - Water is essential for life and is an important nutrient for pigs. However, water is becoming increasingly scarce and requires more attention than it has received. This article highlights that both the quality and quantity of water are important issues.
calendar icon 1 January 2002
clock icon 4 minute read


Water quality varies across the prairies. Water can be sourced from deep or shallow wells, or dugouts. Water should be tested for quality every few years and more often if a related problem is seen (e.g. excess scours).

An important indicator of water quality is the total dissolved solids. A level less than 1,000 parts per million (ppm) is safe for drinking while an amount over 4,000 ppm could be a problem. High salts or sulphates in water can result in loose stools (diarrhea) whereas sulphate levels under 7,000 ppm may not cause any reduction in performance. Water may contain bacteria or other microorganisms that cause sickness in pigs. In this case, water disinfection (chlorination) is recommended.


Water quantity is usually more a cause for concern on farms than quality. On today's hog operation, it's difficult to constantly monitor hundreds of water nipples, water lines and valves. The water system might work well, but the concern is at the individual pen or farrowing crate level.

A water nipple that is partly plugged, causing a reduced flow rate, is not easy to detect. You may not detect a 10 per cent reduction in growth caused by restricted flow.

Pigs may drink up to 8-10 per cent of their body weight in water daily. If they drink well, they will eat well and grow well. On one farm, for example, a pen of weaner pigs were doing poorly. A check of the water nipple revealed the problem was very slow water flow.

Reduced Flow

The diameter of water lines affect flow rate dramatically. Friction can slow water flow in smaller diameter pipes. Distance can also reduce flow, in that the pen farthest away receives the lower flow rates.
  • the wrong nipple and location for the type of pig can also cause a lack of water. A nursing sow needs a big nipple with a lot of water. The nipple has to be at the right height for the pig or water intake will be reduced.
  • if the waterer heights are adjustable, adjust them to suit the pigs.
  • plugged nipples are a major cause of reduced flow to individual pens and crates.
  • use the biggest hole in the back of the nipple and replace the screens with a water filter for each room or for the barn to help keep the nipples from plugging.
  • if a water well cannot keep up to demand at certain times of the day or in the summer, consider installing a tank as a reservoir, so there is enough water for peak demands.

The Bottom Line

Make sure that pigs have lots of good quality water available 24 hours a day. Have a system in place to regularly check every water nipple to make sure there is adequate flow.

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Reproduced Courtesy Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
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Source: Bacon Bits - Vol. XVI, No. 4, April 2002

For more information, contact:

Bert Dening, BSc.
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Barrhead,
Telephone: (780) 674-8247
E-mail: [email protected]

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