It is often thought that pigs at weaning are substituting water for feed consumption, resulting in a temporary weight loss, as they adapt to eating solid food.

But researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have discovered that most water usage after weaning is actually water wastage.

They also found that the use of a push-lever bowl drinker reduces water wastage without hurting water and feed intake or affecting piglet behavior.

Compared to the standard nipple drinker, the push-lever bowl drinker reduces daily water wastage per pig by more than 27 fluid oz. through two weeks after weaning (Table 1). Based on 15 pigs/drinker device, changing one nipple drinker to a push-lever bowl drinker can reduce water loss by about 1,300 gal./year.

Using drinker devices other than the standard nipple drinker may ease piglets' transition to solid food and prevent the development of behavior problems such as excessive water intake and belly nosing.

In the experiment, researchers examined the effect of drinker type on water and food intake, growth rate and belly-nosing behavior in the newly weaned piglet.

Eighteen pens of 15 piglets each (270 piglets) were weaned at about 18 days of age and housed in pens containing a standard nipple, push-lever bowl or a float bowl water source. Performance was monitored by pen through two weeks after weaning. Piglets with the nipple drinker wasted much more water than other piglets, while piglets on the float bowl consumed much less water.

Drinker type also greatly affected feeding behavior; piglets with the push-lever bowl spent less time at the feeder than other piglets, although there was no difference in feed intake or overall average daily gain.

Piglets with the push-lever bowl also tended to belly nose and perform other nosing behaviors less than piglets with the float bowl.

These results indicate that piglets use more water during the first two days after weaning, but much of that water is wasted rather than satiating needs.

Excessive drinking and water wastage can be solved through the use of push-lever drinkers without negative effects on feed intake and growth rates.

Researcher: Stephanie Torrey, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Dairy & Swine Research & Development Centre, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada; and Tina Widowski, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Contact Torrey by phone (819) 565-9174, ext. 129, by fax (819) 565-5507 or e-mail torreys@agr.gc.ca.

Table 1. Overall Water Consumed, Wasted and Used at the Three Drinker Devices
Drinker type Water (ml/pig/d) Water wasted, %
Consumed Wasted Used
Float 475 295 770 38.3
Nipple 870 1,114 1,981 56.1
Push-lever 774 186 960 19.3

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