Management factors lead to swine feeding success – Part two
By Lynnea Courtney
As we discussed in part one of this series, pig performance is impacted by a multitude of management and environmental factors, such as feed management. Another important factor to consider is water management. Monitoring water availability and quality in your barns is an essential area to optimize swine health and productivity.
Adequate water delivery is key to achieve optimal health and performance in a swine herd. A decrease in water availability by an insufficient number of drinkers per pen or insufficient water flow rates can prove to be detrimental to pig performance and overall health. A good rule of thumb is one nipple drinker per roughly 10 pigs and one bowl drinker per roughly 25 pigs.
Nipple drinkers are the most common way to deliver water to pigs, but they can also be one the biggest contributors to water waste. Growing pigs spend 30 minutes per day drinking, and 85 percent of water consumption happens within 10 minutes of eating. To lower water waste and keep the drinker accessible, nipple drinkers should be mounted at shoulder height for drinkers angled at 90-degrees and 20 percent above the shoulder for drinkers angled at 45-degrees to ensure the pig is able to drink at the same angle as the nipple. The water flow rate is also important. For nursery pigs, if the flow rate is correct, it should take roughly 70 seconds to fill an 8-ounce cup. It should take 30 seconds for growing pigs, 20 seconds for finishing pigs and 15 seconds to fill for sows and boars.
Water quality should be monitored for pathogen levels, water hardness, nitrates and nitrites. Water harboring high amounts of pathogens can cause a disease outbreak. Water testing is available at a number of commercial laboratories. Obtain a sterile sample container from the lab to avoid contamination. Samples should be collected after the water has run for a few minutes and the nipples have been cleaned and sterilized. The complete water line should be cleaned and flushed between batches of pigs to prevent a disease outbreak from one batch to the next.
Water hardness is determined by the amount of calcium and magnesium the water contains (i.e. the higher the amount of calcium and magnesium contained in the water, the higher the water hardness). While water hardness rarely causes any health concerns in pigs, it can accumulate in the water delivery system and constrict the amount of water delivered to the pigs, limiting performance. Additionally, if the water had a high amount of calcium, this excess calcium intake from the water may lead to problems with phosphorus utilization by the pig.
Lastly, testing water for nitrates and nitrites is critical. Nitrates and nitrites limit the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, and it may also impair the pig’s ability to utilize certain vitamins.
Inadequate water delivery and poor water quality can be costly to pig performance and health. Make water management a regular check to help keep these easily manageable factors from becoming problems within the swine herd. The Vita Plus swine nutrition team is here to help you with your feed and feed management goals. Contact your Vita Plus consultant to discuss your goals and ideas for improving your sow and pig performance.
About the author: Lynnea Courtney previously worked as the Vita Plus swine formulations and support specialist. Courtney grew up on a small farm in eastern Iowa raising beef cattle and hogs. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science and agribusiness in 2003. She has been with Vita Plus since 2004.