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.