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Pig at a waterer National Pork Board
Water quality may encourage or discourage water intake especially as it relates to feed intake and subsequent performance.

Nursery pig performance impacted by total dissolved solids in water

Long-term impact of specific minerals contributions to drinking water with high concentration of TDS requires further research and investigation.

The site-specific nature of the U.S. pork industry requires that newly weaned pigs are moved from the sow barn to a wean-to-finish or nursery barn some distance away. Because water quality can vary considerably between production sites, it is important to identify the qualities of water that impact the growth performance of nursery pigs.

Water quality may encourage or discourage water intake especially as it relates to feed intake and subsequent performance. The U.S. pork industry stands to benefit from a better understanding of the effects of particular mineral elements in water with high concentrations of total dissolved solids on the performance of newly weaned pigs in modern pork production. This information could be used to develop strategies and/or technologies that reduce or eliminate the impact of water quality on nursery performance.

High concentrations of TDS in water have been reported to increase the incidence of diarrhea and reduce nursery pig growth performance. Specific minerals of interest for nursery pigs have not been fully characterized. However, water with high TDS concentrations from magnesium and sodium sulfates are associated with incidences of diarrhea. Furthermore, diarrhea may disrupt the integrity of the pig's gut wall, leading to increased gut permeability to toxins and pathogenic microorganisms, and can lead to reduced intestinal nutrient absorptive capacity.

This research utilized the capabilities of the commercial wean-to-finish research facility at South Dakota State University which is set up to monitor water usage for each pen on an individual pen basis from one of four independent water lines. Each pen was randomly assigned to receive one of four water treatments into two cup waterers per pen: 1) combination of calcium sulfate [CaSO4], magnesium sulfate [MgSO4] and sodium sulfate [NaSO4]; 2) CaSO4; 3) MgSO4; or 4) NaSO4.

The drinking water treatments were derived from stock solutions of sulfate salts delivered at 1:128 to relevant pens using a separate medicator per water line. The additions of sulfate salts to the stock solutions were limited by the solubility of the individual complexes in water. The limited solubility of CaSO4 in water did not appear to increase the concentration of TDS in the drinking water treatment above the unadulterated rural water source (Table 1).

South Dakota State University Table 1: Total dissolved solids and sulfate concentrations of the water provided to newly weaned pigs during the nursery stage at the South Dakota State University wean-to-finish facility.

Table 1: Total dissolved solids and sulfate concentrations of the water provided to newly weaned pigs during the nursery stage at the South Dakota State University wean-to-finish facility.


Newly weaned pigs (n=1,144; 20 days old PIC) were stocked at 26 pigs per pen of equal gender in 44 pens in a wean-to-finish commercial research barn. Pigs were provided free access to four phase nursery diets and water throughout the trial. Pen weights were measured on Day 0, 7, 21, 35 and 42 of the trial using a scale that weighs the entire pen of pigs at once. Feed remaining on weigh days was calculated according to a prepared calibration curve by measuring the distance from the top of the feeder to the top of the feed. Water meters at each pen were read on weigh days to determine the water usage per pen.1 Contributions from CaSO4, MgSO4 and NaSO4

Although water with high concentrations of TDS from sulfate complexes has been associated with incidences of diarrhea, the concentrations used in this experiment did not appear to impact the growth performance nor feed or water intake of newly weaned nursery pigs compared to previous groups of animals in this facility (Table 2).

South Dakota State University Table 2: Average daily gain, average daily feed intake, feed efficiency (gain:feed) and average daily water intake of nursery pigs provided water with added TDS from: 1) combination of CaSO4, MgSO4 and NaSO4; 2) CaSO4; 3) MgSO4; or 4) NaSO4.

Table 2: Average daily gain, average daily feed intake, feed efficiency (gain:feed) and average daily water intake of nursery pigs provided water with added TDS from: 1) combination of CaSO4, MgSO4 and NaSO4; 2) CaSO4; 3) MgSO4; or 4) NaSO4.

The variability of water quality across the swine industry in South Dakota was recently surveyed by South Dakota State University researchers in "Are we taking water for granted in pork production?" Although water quality has been associated as having an influence on nursery pig performance, the long-term impact of specific minerals contributions to water with high concentration of TDS requires further research and investigation.1 Contributions from CaSO4, MgSO4 and NaSO4

Sources: Ryan Samuel, David Clizer, Paige Isensee and Crystal Levesque, who are solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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