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What are the best drinkers for saving on medication?

We must assure correct management, primarily in the following points: Number of animals / drinker, placement, flow, control of water consumption, design and height of the drinker.

Tuesday 5 June 2012 (6 years 3 months 14 days ago)
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In previous articles we have discussed the vital and physiological importance water has for pigs based on their age and physiological state. Of all the water used, we must distinguish between that consumed and wasted. The aim is to administer medications in the water efficiently in relation to water consumption and cost of antibiotic used but without affecting its productivity performance. Obviously, an increase in the cost of antibiotics and / or water consumption has dramatic effects on the cost of medication, as shown in the following graph:

Figure 1. Relationship between total water used and medication costs (fattening)

Relationship between total water used and medication costs (fattening)

Medication cost / gallon (0.01 U.S. $) depending on the antibiotic used. G Almond. 2002

The water management system also plays an important role in efficient medication. Many times this not only depends on the type of drinker, as shown in the graph below, where we see high consumption between 8-9 l / pig / day (red circle) with 3 different drinkers. This confirms that we must consider other factors to control the "waste" of medicated water such as location, flow and handling of the drinkers.

Figure 2. Medication costs depending on the drinker (9 finishing farms)

Medication costs depending on the drinker (9 finishing farms)

G Almond. 2002

As a result of this water wastage, we not only have a high economic impact for the cost of medication, but also the fixed cost per m3 of slurry management, paying the water twice, both to bring and to eliminate it. Reducing both costs affect the margin per pig or kg of meat. Studies show a 35% difference in the amount of manure generated depending on the type of drinker. We also shouldn’t we forget the environmental impact this has on the soil (ammonium, nitrate, etc...) and the increase of emissions to the environment (GHG gases) due to management (electricity, oil, etc.) of this excess manure.


Improper handling of the drinkers negatively impacts operating costs and the environment.

We can see clearly in the following chart the relationship between the water used and the production of slurry based on handling (height of the drinker):

Figure 3. Water used and manure production with different drinkers for 12 weeks (growth-finishing).

Treatment 1: Bowl.
Treatment 2: Nipple at constant height of 480 mm (recommended only for pigs weighing 25 kg).
Treatment 3: Nipple at the recommended height (50 mm over the back of the smallest pig).
Treatment 4: Nipple at constant height of 730 mm (for pigs weighing100 kg) with a 250mm step on the ground (at the height of 480 mm from the trough)

Water used and manure production with different drinkers for 12 weeks (growth-finishing).

Li and Gonyou. 2005

1. Importance of drinker design for water wasted

There are 5 main ways to manage water for the pigs: Valve, bowl, channel, feeding and mixed feeding liquid feed / water.

In general, we can summarize efficiency depending on the design of the drinker:

Comparison of different types of water administration for saving medication:

duck-billed drinker > nipple drinker
hanging drinker > nipple drinker
ball drinker > duck-billed drinker
bowl drinker > ball drinker
Mixed hopper (water/feed) > duck-billed drinker
Mixed hopper (water/feed) > Mixed hopper - dry feed
Liquid feed > Mixed hopper (water/feed)

There is little information about the influence of drinker design on water use in medications, but there are some examples:

Magowan et al., (2008) confirms that increased consumption of water occurs significantly with nipples, compared to bowls:

Figure 4. Average daily water consumption in piglets weaned (L / pig / day) with different water drinkers, and different positions.

Average daily water consumption in piglets weaned (L / pig / day) with different water drinkers, and different positions.www.afbini.gov.uk

Torrey et al., (2008) shows that the drinker design influences the newly weaned piglet. Nipple drinkers waste 83% more, and the bowl with floater type drinkers 37% more water than the bowl with nipple type.

Figure 5. Water consumed, wasted and used comparing 3 types of drinkers for 14 days in weaned piglets.

Agua consumida,desperdiciada y gastada comparando 3 tipos de bebederos durante 14 días en lechones recién destetados.

Torrey et al. 2008

McKerracher D., (2007) demonstrated that a change of nipples with more efficient ones is cost-effective, by recovering the investment in water savings, volume of slurry, electricity and diesel consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Figure 6. Water consumption per pig (24 h)

Water consumption per pig (24 h)

D McKerracher. 2007

Glen Almond (2002) makes another comparison between two different designs, with a difference of 72% savings between them.

Figure 7. Water use in 6 nurseries.

Water use in 6 nurseries.

G Almond. 2002

2. Importance of drinker management for water wasted

We must assure correct management, primarily in the following points: Number of animals / drinker, placement, flow, control of water consumption, design and height of the drinker.

But we must bear in mind that a good drinker with bad management quickly becomes a bad one, resulting in economic losses due to lack of performance, medicated water waste and high volume of slurry.

3. The relationship between the flow of water and water wasted

The flow depends mainly on the pipe diameter, pressure and the drinker that is installed. A higher than necessary flow will cause water wastage and cause more competition for drinking, becoming exacerbated when the animal density or temperature is high. The relationship is shown in the graph:

Figure 8. Relationship between wasted water and drinker flow

Relationship between wasted water and drinker flow

Li YZ and Gonyu HW. 1996

4. Relationship between the nipple placement and water wasted

Adjusting the height of the drinker.

We should install the drinker on or around the defecation area and near the trough, at a height of 5 cm above the back of the smallest pig in the pen. A nipple placed too high hinders drinking and if placed too low, results in waste of water. The recommendations are 1 nipple/10 pigs with a minimum of 2/pen to prevent possible blockage, competition and waste of water. Between 2 nipples should be at least the length of a pig. A correct orientation can reduce waste by 35% and placing "anti-spill" sheets can result in a 50% reduction.

Figure 9. Effect of height and flow of the "nipples" on the total of water used, consumed and wasted (growth-finishing)

Treatment 1: Recommended height (50 mm over the back of the smallest pig and a low flow (500 ml / min).
Treatment 2: Height and flow (1000 ml / min) as recommended.
Treatment 3: inadequate height (330 mm) and low flow.
Treatment 4: inadequate height and high flow.

Effect of height and flow of the nipples on the total of water used, consumed and wasted (growth-finishing)

Li and Gonyou. 2005

5. Relationship between the placement of the bowl and water wasted

The bowl should be placed on the slat area of the yard, but not in the corner, where it gets dirty more often. When installing more than one bowl they should be placed close together. The pigs should drink with their heads slightly down, if the bowl is too high the pig will have difficulty drinking, and if too low it will get dirtier and more water will be lost. Height should be at about 40% of the height of the smallest pig in the pen. The number of pigs per each bowl can be up to 15.

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10-May-2017Alenda JaureguiAlenda JaureguiGreat post! I love your blog!
10-May-2017MaxMaxI do not understand the last idea.
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