“It’s hard to get excited about something so simple, but it’s a good idea,” says New Product Tour Judge Joseph Darrington, South Dakota State University engineer. “It’s unconventional, but they came up with a good design, good fluid mechanics.”
Darrington is talking about the Crystal Spring Hog Equipment nipple, the only nipple engineered specifically for wet-dry feeders.
Crystal Spring has worked with wet-dry feeders for over 35 years, and Tom McAdams, Crystal Spring production and inside sales manager, says they felt confident with the progress they had made with development of the water nipples over time.
“As hog production evolves, we see really, really small wean-to-finish pigs, isowean, we get 8-pound pigs coming in [to the barn]. We’ve seen different rations, different ingredients coming in, and when you mix water, or too much water, it becomes hard to manage,” he says. The Crystal Spring team went back to work to resolve that challenge. Getting the pigs off to a good start in the first two to three weeks is important, but also, managing that water flow over the life of the animal is essential for the wet-dry feeder’s performance.
“What we found is that if you don’t manage the water properly you turn that feeder into a dry feeder, and you lose all the benefits that you paid for, as well as it might not be enough feed space, so it’s pretty critical to get it right,” McAdams says. Managing water flow to a single wet-dry feeder can be challenging, but managing a consistent water flow over the full length of a barn can be an even bigger challenge, and Crystal Spring set out to resolve those issues.
A two- to three-year project resulted in the development of two different silicone inserts in the nipple unit to adapt it to various water pressures and barn configurations. At 50 pounds per square inch of water pressure, the green insert produces a maximum flow of about 4.8 cups per minute, while the orange insert produces a maximum to 7 cups per minute.
“Now with the Shore, or malleability, of the silicone, we are able to change what kind of flow we get,” he says. “This is the start of something new. We don’t want to come out here and say we got this 100% right, but it’s a way that we can, with the wet-dry feeder design around the functionality, enhance the design of the feeder. This gives us a foundation for innovation, not necessarily a final innovation.”
McAdams says these nipples increase the operating window of pressures to optimize gain with wet-dry feeders, simplifying feeder management, reducing water and feed waste, and eliminating the need for a second pressure regulator in the barns.
A special nipple is also available for use in barns with gravity-flow water pressure, more commonly seen in some international markets where Crystal Spring also has a significant market. Nipples specific for sows are also available.
“If it’s a patented product, and if it works, I think there’s a place for it,” says Pat Thome, Minnesota hog producer. “There are a lot of wet-dry feeders out there.”
New Product Tour judges wondered aloud how the nipples will stand up in conditions with water that may have extra hardness and other particulates that may cause plugging.
In response, McAdams says, “The nipple is designed with a filter system that prevents small particles and impurities that exist in water and barn pipes from clogging the nipples. The filter system is also designed to allow medications to flow through the nipples as necessary.”
All in all, Darrington says, “It’s a solid design.”