Drinker Design Does Effect in Newly Weaned Piglet

CANADA - During the first few days after weaning, pigs often experience body weight loss as they adapt to eating solid food. During this time period, they are also observed to drink excessively and develop abnormal oral behaviour such as belly nosing.
calendar icon 7 March 2008
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Some recently published research suggests that this excessive drinking may be from piglets' attempting to satiate hunger through gut fill from a familiar ingestive source.

Gut fill through water intake may affect establishment of feeding behavior. Using drinker devices other than the standard nipple drinker may ease piglets' transition at weaning by facilitating initiation of feeding and preventing development of behavior problems such as excessive drinking and belly nosing. This experiment examined the effect of drinker type on water and food intake, growth rates, and belly nosing in newly-weaned piglets.


Eighteen pens of 15 piglets each (270 piglets) were weaned at 18.1 +/- 0.1 days of age. They were housed in pens containing one of three drinker devices (standard nipple, push-lever bowl, float bowl).

Piglets' water and feed intake, water usage, body weight and behavior were examined on a pen-basis for two weeks post weaning.

  • Piglets with nipple drinkers wasted more water than those using other types of drinker.
  • Those piglets with float bowls consumed less water than other piglets Piglets with push-lever bowls spent less time at the feeder than other piglets, although no difference was detected in feed intake (P = 0.64) or overall ADG (P = 0.16).
  • Piglets with push-lever bowls also tended to perform less piglet-directed nosing behavior than piglets with the float bowl (P = 0.04).
  • Piglets appear to use more water during the first two days after weaning with certain drinker devices. However, piglets do not appear to attain satiety through water consumption because most of the water used during the first few days after weaning is wasted.
This excessive drinking and water wastage can be abated through use of push-lever drinkers without negative implications on feed intake and growth rates.

Torrey S, Toth Tamminga EL, Widowski TM. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre, Sherbrooke, Quebec, J1M 1Z3, Canada. J Anim Sci. 2008 Feb 13

This study was recently published in the Journal of Animal Science. To read it click here
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