Impact of water flow rate on finishing pig performance

Water flow rate had a significant impact on average daily feed intake.

August 17, 2021

3 Min Read
Pig Drinking.JPG
National Pork Board

A survey of finishing barns from 23 different South Dakota pork producers in 2019 demonstrated that water flow rate for nipple waterers was highly variable among barns. Sixty-eight percent had water flow rates above the recommended rate of 2-4 cups/min (NSNG, 2010), and only two barns had ≥50% of the pens meeting flow rate recommendations. Since feed intake is directly influenced by water intake, anything affecting water intake should also impact feed intake, and consequently, gain. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of water flow rate on finishing pig performance during the summer months, a time when water needs should be the greatest.

A total of 396 mixed-sex pigs in two groups were utilized in a 77-day trial with an average starting weight of 76.2 lbs. At the end of the 77-day trial, the pigs reached an average weight of 229 lbs. Each pen had a two-hole WF feeder and a cup waterer. There were six pigs/pen with 7.5 ft2/pig. Pens were assigned to one of three water flow rates (high, medium, low) based on the three-hole diameters of the commercial water nipples used in the facility (2.0, 1.0, 0.80 mm) and there were 22 pens/treatment. Daily water usage was recorded for each treatment along with room temperature, outside temperature, and relative humidity. Water flow rate was individually recorded from every individual waterer every two weeks. At each diet phase change (26± 2.6 days), feed disappearance and individual pig body weight were also recorded. The trial ran from June to October in 2020 with an average outdoor temperature of 68.5F and an indoor temperature of 73.0. Sprinklers were activated at 85F (three minutes on/12 minutes off) to provide supplemental cooling for the pigs.

Water flow rates averaged 7.8±.79, 3.8±.9, and 2.1±.4 cups/min for high, medium, and low flow rates.

Daily water disappearance for high, medium, and low treatments were 1.80, .67, and .45 gallons/pig, respectively.

Final body weight did not differ but ranged from 227.5 lbs. for the low flow treatment to 233.5 lbs for the high flow treatment. Daily gain from 76.1 to 122.4 lbs. BW was greatest (P<0.05) for the high treatment. Daily intake and gain:feed from 122.4 to 174.4 lbs BW was greatest (P<0.05) for high treatment. Cumulative ADFI was affected (P<0.05) by water flow rate with pigs on the high, medium, and low flow ranges consuming 5.0, 4.81, and 4.76 lbs of feed/day, respectively. There was no difference in cumulative ADG or G:F.  

One limitation of this trial is that it was terminated before pigs reached a common market weight of 290 lbs. due to marketing schedules. As pigs got bigger, there was less space/pig, and they were generating more heat/pig. One could speculate that this would increase the water demand.  Also, a possible reason for increased daily water disappearance for the high flow rate is that the pigs were splashing it from the cup to the floor to increase evaporative cooling.

Water flow rate had a significant impact on ADFI although there was minimal impact on gain and G:F. Water nipples should be regularly checked as part of normal barn maintenance to ensure adequate, but not excessive, water is available.

Source: H.E. Miller, J.Y. Perez-Palencia, C.L. Levesque, and R.C. Thaler, South Dakota State University, who are solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.


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