May 2015: What if your unit runs dry?

We’re always developing ideas and services to fulfil knowledge gaps. Our colleague Angela Cliff, knowledge transfer manager for the Midlands, as many of you will know, is always full of ideas and enthusiasm. She has recently been running workshops on water and pig performance, and kindly asked for a session on the environmental aspects of water use in pig farming. This set off a string of activity and a workshop has been developed and delivered.

Rather than concentrate on the negative, we looked at where water comes from, how it’s used and where it goes, and its costs. We also looked at the reasons why it might not be getting around a unit as it should, low flow rates and factors influencing pig intake. During the next few months, we’re planning to share more information on these topics in Pig World.
The discussions during the meetings often yielded gems of ideas or highlighted things we just don’t consider, especially in this country where, on the whole, we’ve uninterrupted supplies of water and power.

Putting it into context, one producer had recently suffered with his water being cut off, on account of a reservoir failure. The water company had supplied water by tanker for a number of days. This raised interesting questions applicable to all units. First, if water had to be hauled to your farm, would the tanker have to come through the gate? Just this one logistical issue presents biosecurity concerns, and if you’re desperate and the company is more concerned about making deliveries than scheduling routes around your farm, what would you do?

And once the tanker is on the unit, how’s the water going to get into the farm network? Can it all be pumped into one header tank that feeds everywhere, or does it have to go from shed to shed? Maybe a pipeline will have to be broken into, but then there could be pumps involved; is the pressure too high, or too low? Will the tanker remain with you until empty (probably not); and do you have sufficient water storage available until the next delivery?

Routine activity may also need to change, washing being a prime candidate. All of this has a knock-on effect to pig flow and labour. Are staff free to deal with such interruptions?

It’s a long list of questions, but this is how the discussions went. It goes to show that a contingency plan is needed, but also highlights the need not to be too dependent upon one source for essential services.
For example, do you need to think about a back-up generator, something that’s fairly standard on many farms because power failure is something we all experience. It could be especially useful given the marked increase in the number of borehole and pump installations going onto farms.

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About The Author

Nigel Penlington joined AHDB Pigs in 2004 and is now the organisation’s head of research and development and knowledge exchange.