Is Your Pig Getting Enough Water?

UK - Despite providing enough drinkers – often exceeding the official recommendations – some pigs still do not get sufficient water, says ARM Buildings.
calendar icon 12 November 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

This is holding back growth rates and impacting profits because feed intake is affected by water consumption. Drinking patterns are related to water flow-rates, type of drinker and, crucially, positioning.

This is the view of Tim Miller, environmental specialist with ARM Buildings, who visits hundreds of piggeries a year. “Research has shown that finishing pigs need 2.7 litres of water for every 1 kg of feed consumed, but in practice this in not happening on many farms,” he said.

One of the problems is that pigs like to drink together, especially after weaning. Pig farmers, rightly, fix drinkers at different heights – but adjustable ones may not be adjusted - and this can mean some are just not available to the pigs during certain stages of the growth period.

For example, if a pen needs four drinkers and two are fixed at a lower level – to allow pigs to reach them when they are small - and two at a higher level to provide water as they grow, then this means at some stage the pigs can only reach half the drinkers. So the dominant pigs out-compete the others at certain times and get the most water.

Research by the late Nick Bird, of Farmex, showed that drinking peaked mid-morning and late afternoon and while drinking occurs throughout the night, it may mean that some pigs are trying to make up for their lack of access during the day.

Tim Miller recommends that farmers consider putting in extra drinkers, particularly for young pigs. “Besides the benefits of better growth rates I have also seen a reduction in vices where extra drinkers have been installed.I think water has a lot more influence than farmers realise,” he said.

“Monitoring of water, which is now possible to carry out remotely, can pick up patterns and a disturbed pattern of intake can give a very useful early warning that something is wrong,” he added.

Charlotte Rowney

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