Water’s key role and the need for new tank design

Water tanks are just not designed for cleaning and getting rid of rubbish. Pipe fittings can’t go on the edge and nuts and spigots poke up through the base, leaving that frustrating last layer of what you really want out. We have discussed various options, but we need a new design.

Interestingly, on a dairy farm last week, I did spot a water trough that was designed to self-clean. It was not rectangular but tapered, with a pipe welded in the bottom so it was flush, and a really easy-to-use valve. The sludge just flowed out when open. We are looking to see if something similar can be made to fit into flat-bottomed plastic tanks.

How did our review of water tank hygiene come about? When the banning of in-feed medication became a serious reality and our veterinary colleagues were talking about in-water medication, it made us think more about this topic. Big strides have been made and acknowledged in reducing medication and, in particular, antibiotics, but the health and welfare of the pigs is paramount.

Quite logically, water is a good route for medication. Feed intake is related to pig weight and growth rate and water intake is directly related to feed intake, so we have a ready-made, accurate dosing system. Well, that’s the theory but is it the reality? This subject will be discussed at the upcoming series of roadshows, ‘Health and antibiotics, keeping the balance’, organised across the next few weeks by ForFarmers and AHDB.

We will be looking at the role of water and feed in reducing medicinal interventions. I have been allocated a joint slot with BQP’s Mark Jagger to talk about our experiences with water systems and in-water medication. Over the last few years, Mark has been working with missionary zeal.

His experience is hard to match, having set up clean-up plans and application systems on many units.

The AHDB team has been busy preparing factsheets and other materials for attendees, pulling together information from recent work, which has started to show trends around water quality being delivered to pigs. In some respects, we have confirmed some of our worst fears, but realise that while there is a big job to be done in some situations, it is not insurmountable.

We look forward to meeting you over the next few weeks.

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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.