Water management rises up the agenda

Another month has flown by, during which we saw Andrew Knowles depart for a new job. His drive, knowledge and enthusiasm will be difficult to match – many thanks Andrew for all you have done for us.

This month I’m going to focus on the likely removal of in-feed medication and the challenges it’s likely to bring. Changing to in-water medication might sound simple, but it may not be as easy as it first seems. A well-functioning water system is an essential first step for those looking to implement in-water medication – and you may recall I recently highlighted the training we’re providing to help producers get their water systems working more efficiently.

For in-water medication to be effective, pigs will need to be receiving the right dose at the right time and in the right place. Producers simply can’t afford for water to be lost down slats and resistance problems replaced with contaminated slurry, so water systems are going to have to be spot on. The whole matter gets more complex when you start looking at the products to be added – do they settle out for example? How much water is in the pipes between the point of application and the last pen?

In many instances the answer is actually not that much, in 60m of 20mm pipe, there is about 11 litres, and therefore about eight to 10 minutes through to a drinker for a finisher. It should get to point of use quite quickly even in a large building.

Besides settlement, biofilms and possible reactions, what else should we look for? For example, are some pipe materials better than others? There are plenty of questions, but we need solutions (sorry!), answers. We’re on the case and will be assessing what systems exist, what’s working well and what’s not, as well as tips for best performance.

We’re currently looking at temperature management; what’s working well on farm and what to improve. Recently, when the outside temperatures were in the upper 20s, I was fortunate enough to visit some straw-based finisher houses with insulated roofs, side curtains and exhaust fans. The internal temperature was no more than two degrees greater than external, the pigs were content on account of the shade provided and gentle air movement. It was far better inside than out.

However, going further into one of the houses, where the fans were off for repairs, the air quality was poor and, despite air moving, there was insufficient air exchange.

Fans are one solution, but we‘re also looking at other ways of driving air exchange in hot weather. Controlled, very fine misting of water at rates carefully matched to incoming air is ideal for fan-ventilated sheds. Next time you’re close to an irrigator, get closer and feel the air temperature drop.

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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.