Pigs and Drinkers

I spent part of today reviewing a paper submitted for publication to a refereed journal that looked at drinkers for pigs. As I reviewed the paper, I was once again reminded how little we really know about the pigs drinking behavior or even its preferences for type and location of drinkers.

In the past, most recommendations for drinking water were simple – have it present at all times and it should be ‘potable’, which means fit for human consumption. This really doesn’t detail the many decisions that must be made about water systems for today’s housing systems.

The questions I most often get from producers are:
1) What type of drinker is best for wean-finish pigs?
2) How many drinkers do I need per pen?
3) Where should I locate the drinkers in the pen?
4) What pressure should I use for the water line?

If you’ve attended a presentation where I’ve talked about drinkers, you know the answer to all of the above questions is ‘It depends’. While it would be nice to reply to each of these questions with a well researched answer, in many cases the industry is learning about water needs by trial and error. I’ve been on a lot of sites where the error part of the learning experience was in place.

It turns out that it is difficult to do well replicated research on drinkers and water needs. If water disappearance is part of the research, leaking nipple drinkers due to broken drinker springs, seals, etc. will drive the researchers crazy. How does one sort out the issue of location of drinkers from the issue of number of drinkers as to impact on pig performance and preference? Season of the year will impact how the pig perceives and utilizes drinkers.

While we’ve come a long way in defining the water needs of the growing pig, we’re still learning by trial and error how to apply this knowledge to the real world of the pig pen.

2 thoughts on “Pigs and Drinkers

  1. Dr. Brumm, what do you think about the “pan” drinker with diaphragm flow controller for wean-finish pigs? Can it save more water than the cup drinker? Many persons told me the pan drinker is a better choice, but I think the pan need be cleaned frequently, because feed or other things will stay in the pan.

  2. The US industry uses a lot of ‘pan’ drinkers and like all drinkers, they have their good and bad points. Producers like pan drinkers as it is easy to verify that water is available – you don’t have to push every drinker device to check. Newly weaned pigs rapidly find water as they search their new surroundings. Problems with pan drinkers can include soiled drinking pans from pigs putting their feet in the drinking pan, running thru the pan, etc. Some of this problem is related to whether the pan sits directly on the floor or is elevated 2-4 inches. Some pans are meant for single pig access while others promote multiple pig access. Some producers have reported problems with the ‘bladder’ control device not shutting off completely and consequently drinkers leaking water into manure storage devices. This can often be related to incorrect water pressure (higher is better) at the bladder and water quality issues such as fine sand and high tds in the water.

    In hot weather pigs cannot activate the bladder to get a constant water flow across their snout, something that is often seen with bowl drinkers so some water savings may occur if this is a problem at a site.

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