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Drinking patterns and their possible influence on medications

Knowing the pattern of pig behavior when drinking is essential for effective treatments.

Tuesday 6 March 2012 (6 years 9 months 7 days ago)
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It is not uncommon to find producers who offer medication to pigs in their water for only a few hours per day to ensure they are taking the correct dose and that the product is in perfect condition. However, the timing of the medication will depend on the pigs’ drinking pattern. Knowing the pattern of pig behavior when drinking is therefore essential for effective treatments.

Numerous studies have been carried out to try and understand drinking patterns.

Johnson et al. (2007) evaluated the time required for 100% of the piglets to access the drinker (≥ 5 sec.) at least 1 time per day to determine the time needed for administration of a given product. In his experiments found that the best time is morning and during a period of about 6 hours, specifically from 7:00 to 13:00 (see table).

Table 1. % of piglets visiting the drinker at least once

Day Pen Nº piglets Sex Time
7:00-9:00 (2 h) 7:00-11:00 (4 h) 7:00-13:00 (6 h)
1 1 23 M 91 96 100
2 26 F 100 100 100
3 23 M 87 100 100
4 25 F 92 100 100
2 5 25 F 100 100 100
6 24 M 79 100 100
7 24 F 96 100 100
8 26 M 100 100 100
Average 93,1 99,5 100
Johnson, et al (2007)

Other researchers (Jackson et al. 2008) sought to determine whether it was better to subject the animals to a water deprivation period before taking a medication. The conclusion was that all pigs visited the drinker between 7:00 am and 1:00 pm, so witholding water for 15 h. to encourage consumption of medicated water does not seem to be arecommended measure.

Figure 1. Number of visits to the drinker after 15 h of deprivation (DP) or free access to water (F)

Number of visits to the drinker after 15 h of deprivation (DP) or free access to water (F)

All pigs visited the drinker during the period of 6 h. The control piglets (F) performed fewer total visits and spent less time in the trough than the DP piglets.

Figure 2. Duration of visits to the drinker after 15 h of deprivation (DP) or free access to water (F).
All pigs visited the drinker during the period of 6 h. The control piglets (F) performed fewer total visits and spent less time in the trough than the DP piglets.

DP piglets spent more time in the trough and visited it more often than control piglets (F) only during the 1st hour after restoring the water.

Figure 3. Water consumed in 5 h after 15 h of deprivation (DP) or free access to water (F).
Water consumed in 5 h after 15 h of deprivation (DP) or free access to water (F).

23% of DP pigs visited the drinker = 21 times, compared to 6% of control pigs (F). 64% of DP piglets spent = 121 seconds into the trough compared with 26% of control pigs (F). Water consumption was greater for DP piglets.

The ambient temperature can affect the pigs’ demonstrated pattern of drinking and two distinct patterns were found: one summer and one winter. In summer the pigs tend to be inactive durning the hottest hours and this is reflected in their pattern of drinking.

Figure 4. Consumption patterns in fattening and weaning weights between 88-95 kg.
Summer (- -) Winter (—)


Brumm, M.C. 2006

When we talk about treating drinking water almost always think of hogs in the growth and fattening phases, but increasingly sows are now often treated through the water as well. It will therefore be important to know how the sows drink. In the case of pregnant sows they will drink according to their food pattern. There are peaks 2 h. after feeding in the morning and 1 h. after doing so in the afternoon (Olsson and Andersson, 1985). However, with lactating sows the pattern will be very different. The lactating sow consumes water multiple times during the 24 h, following the pattern of milk production (Brumm, 2006).

The amount of water consumed by lactating sows varies throughout lactation in a pattern parallel to milk production

The amount of water consumed by lactating sows varies throughout lactation in a pattern parallel to milk production, with a peak at 3 weeks post partum. The graph shows daily water consumption of 2 lactations (Brumm, 2006).

As we have seen, these patterns are normal, however, in field conditions there are abnormal situations that can alter the normal pattern

As we have seen, these patterns are normal, however, in field conditions there are abnormal situations that can alter the normal pattern. Evaluating the minimum and maximum consumption, we can decide whether what is happening is normal or not, ie if there is any factor that is altering the normal pattern.

Another element to consider is the competition between the piglets at the drinker. If during the day they are competing for water, some piglets will drink when they should be sleeping. We can see in this work of Bird, 2001, in which the maximum demand (expressed in % of water consumption / day) increases only at the end when some piglets are removed from the pens to reduce competition.


Bird 2001

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