Sows drink 15-20 extra litres of water per day in free-style pens, research finds

Research from environmental specialist ARM Buildings has shown that sows in the free-style pens are drinking 15-20 more litres per day at that stage of suckling than those in conventional crates.

The organisation has been monitoring sows’ drinking habits in both sows in freedom-style farrowing pens with sows in conventional crates. Sows in crates are drinking, at their peak, up to 25 litres per day compared with up to 35-40 litres per day in the free-style pens.

Tim Miller, environmental specialist with ARM Buildings, commented: “These figures raise many questions, such as are the sows in crates getting enough to drink or are the sows with water-bowls wasting water? Obviously, today’s sows with large litters need more water for milk production – but how much more?”

Another factor suggested by Mr Miller is that in the freedom-style pens the piglets can drink from mum’s bowl. If this is a significant amount, he said the questions is whether it will increase weaning weights: “Our graphs show little difference in consumption in the early days after farrowing, but the sows with bowls tend to pull away in the latter stages.

He also suggested that bowls can be used in conventional systems and bite/nipple drinkers in freedom pens, but bowls are normally the choice in freedom pens, and that large intakes could be due to sows finding bowls easier to drink from, while high intakes can take longer from other types of drinker. He added, however, that more applied research needs to be done in this area since height and positioning can also have a bearing.

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