Successful pig farming is heavily reliant on water. It’s not surprising given that piglets consist of around 82% water, and fully grown adult pigs of around 50%. Daily, the average pig consumes a volume of water equivalent to roughly 10% of its body weight, which is also around double the amount of feed they need. For lactating sows, that’s an average of 17 litres per day, although it can be as much as 25 litres.
Return on investment is an important consideration for any business, and pig farming is no different. Good quality water has a real impact on maximising profits, as well-watered pigs grow faster, have higher weaning weights, and achieve increased growth through improved digestion. It, therefore, makes sense to ensure that the water on pig farms is of the highest possible quality. Undertaking a few simple steps to improve water quality should be considered a worthwhile investment in your pig farming business.
Here’s how to improve water quality for pigs and be compliant:
1. Assess the water flow
Adequate water flow is vital. The right speed encourages pigs to drink. Too fast and they find it off-putting, and even frightening. Too slow, and they may give up before they’ve had enough to drink. When designing a water supply system, assessing how much you need is the first step. Differently, aged pigs need different water speed, and this needs to be taken into account. Breaking down your unit into areas with common needs, for example, those with weaners and those with adult pigs, or into buildings that are similar in age and design, will make working out the required water flow to each section easier.
It’s important that those drinkers at the end of the system receive the same water pressure as those at the start. It should also be taken into account that pigs tend to prefer to drink at specific times of the day, and the pressure should be high enough that all pigs can drink at the same time, if necessary.
While ensuring adequate water flow requires planning, it’s not a difficult process. The pipelines need to be divided up into header mains and laterals, and the effect of friction in the pipes taken into account. It may be necessary to install pipes of different diameters through the system to ensure that those pigs at the end of the line are getting the same amount of water as those at the start. Gravity can be used to control the water flow too. Simply installing a header tank at least 2.5 metres above the drinking pipes is a cost-effective way of managing the water flow through the system.
2. Check the water quality regularly
As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t drink it, you shouldn’t be giving it to your pigs. Simple visual checks performed on a daily basis should be considered a routine task. Water should be clear, colourless, and odourless. Regular testing of water samples is also essential. For those farms that are part of the Farm Assurance scheme regular testing is a requirement of the scheme.
There are two methods that can be utilised to maintain the quality of the drinking water. The first is regular flushing through of pipework, header tanks, and drinkers using appropriate cleaning fluids. The second is the continuous use of suitable cleaning chemicals. In both cases, farmers should check for any blockages and reduced flow rate as these can be caused by loosened biofilm from the inside of the pipes.
3. Ensure the right pH levels
The acidity of the water is an important factor in improving the quality of water in pig farming. Lowering the water’s pH to around 4.5 helps to reduce the number of microbes such as E-coli and Salmonella, both of which can seriously harm pigs. Another advantage of reducing the pH level is that it improves the pigs’ digestive system, so improving health and increasing weight gain. The increased acidity aids protein digestion in the stomach and reduces the risk of harmful fermentation that can lead to scouring and pathogen growth further along the digestive system.
As water can vary regionally, particularly in hardness, testing to establish the chemical composition required should be performed first to ensure that the right acidity is achieved.
4. Install a water storage tank
Sometimes the water supply is interrupted. Perhaps it’s due to frozen pipes, or perhaps your local water company is having to carry out repairs or replace existing pipework. Installing water tanks for pigs helps to ensure that you’re still able to water your pigs should your normal water supply fail and adding one to your water system should be considered a necessity.
5. Comply with all regulations
Any water used for animal consumption must meet the same quality regulations as for that supplied to humans. All cold-water storage cisterns and sectional tanks that are connected to the main water supply must meet the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 in England and Wales, and the equivalent Scottish Water Byelaws 2000. The fitting of Fluid Category 5 Break Tanks is key to meeting these requirements.
The Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 in England and Wales state that any water systems supplied to farms with livestock must include an air gap that prevents any potentially contaminated or medicated water backflowing into the mains water supply. Before installing a new water system, advanced notice must be given to the relevant water supplier and must receive approval before it’s fitted by an Approved Contractor.
6. The Enduratank range
Enduratank produces Fluid Category 5 Break Tanks in fourteen different sizes, ranging from 300 litres up to 40,000 litres, meaning that there’s a solution for pig farms of all sizes. Other sizes can be manufactured to meet your individual needs, and all are available in both vertical and horizontal versions, optional insulation can be fitted if required for maintaining a consistent water temperature.
All of Enduratank’s Category 5 Break Water Tanks for pigs are constructed from a single piece of high-density food grade polyethylene. This one-piece, seam-free design minimises the risk of leakage and reduces the need for maintenance. As with all of our tanks, our Category 5 tanks are fully DWI approved and meet all Regulation 31’s specific regulations, which guarantee the safety of the water contained.
Read up more on our related blog Water Storage Tanks for Pig and Poultry Farming.