Although water consumption is an important indicator of a swine herd's performance and health, water may be the most overlooked nutrient for a pig, according to Bob Thaler, SDSU Extension Swine Specialist.
"When thinking about the pig's nutrient requirements, it is easy to focus on common things like amino acids, metabolizable energy, vitamins, and minerals. However, water is the nutrient that the pig consumes the most of during its life. It is probably the most mismanaged and unfortunately, it is also the nutrient that has the least amount of research done on it," Thaler said.
What little research has been done is confounded, Thaler said by the different types of watering devices used.
"Feed intake, and subsequently, growth performance are strongly correlated with water intake so anything that decreases or inhibits water intake will result in reduced pig performance," he said.
How much water does a pig need for normal growth? Daily water requirements depend on phase of production, and recommendations are as follows:
- Newly weaned pigs - .5 gallons/pig/day
- Grow-finish pigs -1.5 gallons/pig/day
- Gestating sows & boars - 4 gallons/pig/day
- Lactating sows - 6 gallons/pig/day
Thaler said it is very important to realize that these numbers represent how much water a pig needs to drink. They do not include the amount of water needed for cleaning, cooling, etc which can account for approximately 28 percent of the water used in a facility.
Time of day & Water consumption
click image to zoomSouth Dakota State University Extension Research shows that pigs have a pattern in which they drink water throughout the day. When using nipple waterers, finishing pigs and gestating sows drink the most water between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. and have a smaller peak between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m.. Nursery pigs consume the most water between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., and lactating sows consume water throughout the whole day since they are producing milk throughout the day as well.
"What makes this information important is hog producers need to have enough watering devices available at those peak times of water consumption so all pigs can drink all they want during those high-demand times," Thaler said.
It is recommended to have two functional nipple waterers if there are greater than 10 nursery pigs in the pen, and greater than 15 finishing pigs in a pen. Nipples can become plugged with rust, sediment, minerals, etc through time so Thaler said it is critical to check each nipple daily to make sure it is working properly.