Over 12 months ago, following a successful trial, Anthony Hitchcock installed 72 Aqualevel valves in his farrowing pens at Crossways Farm, Great Barton, near Bury St Edmunds. These valves are mounted on 1.2m long stainless steel pipes which lead into the drinking trough and have a diaphragm which creates a vacuum maintaining the water at a pre-set level.
Previously, Anthony found that his lactating sows had difficulty drinking, or were too lazy to operate the dribble drinkers to get enough water in their troughs. As a result, there were MMA (mastitis, metritis, agalactia) problems and some sows’ quarters dried up completely, resulting in uneven litters. Sows often failed to clear up their food, too.
Water meters fitted by equipment company, G E Baker, for the trial showed that sows with the Aqualevel valves drank an average of 24 litres per day each compared with just 9 litres for those on the dribble drinkers. With a good level of water being maintained in the troughs, during the first few days after farrowing water intake by sows on the new system averaged 40 litres per day.
Not surprisingly, Anthony installed the valves in all his farrowing pens — at a cost of around £30 per sow — and is convinced he made the right decision.
“The litters are heavier and much more even so we are rearing more piglets.” He puts this down to the fact that as the sows drink more they eat extra feed and milk more prolifically. Veterinary and medication bills are down, although he has switched his PCV2 vaccine, and MMA is all but non-existent, he reports.
A final, unexpected benefit is that the sows produce more urine, making the slurry a lot easier to handle and the pits less tedious to clean out!
Anthony Hitchcock has seen a boost to weaning weights since installing Aqualevel drinking valves in his farrowing pens.