Lack of water damages pig growth rates more than many realise

Lack of drinking water for pigs is holding back growth rates and hitting profits on some farms says environmental specialist, Tim Miller.

Used to visiting hundreds of piggeries a year as part of his work with ARM Buildings, Mr Miller says that, according to research findings, finishing pigs need 2.7 litres of water for every 1 kg of feed consumed.

“In practice, however, 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.”

In addition, research by the late Nick Bird, of Farmex, showed that drinking peaked mid-morning and late afternoon, with some drinking continuing throughout the night, as some pigs tried to make up for lack of access during the day.

Mr Miller’s recommendation is for farmers to 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,” he said, adding that water has a lot more influence than farmers realise.

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