It was only one trial comparing two types of hog waterers. But it made a believer out of Iowa pork producer Kirk Nelson.
A few years ago, the Aurelia, IA, producer convinced his contract production partner, Land O' Lakes (LOL), to allow him to do a trial comparing cup and nipple waterers.
Conditions were about as objective for the 3-month trial as they could be, he recalls. His two, 1,000-head, contract finishing buildings were brand new so the water meters LOL had installed read zero. All of the LOL contract pigs came in at a start weight of 45-50 lb. They were all single-source pigs. And they all entered the facilities on the same day.
Each finishing building contains three rooms of 16 pens each, including one sick pen. Two adjoining rooms in one of the contract finishers were set up for Nelson's trial. In one room, there are 16 pens with a single cup waterer for 22-head average capacity. The cup waterers chosen for the trial by Nelson were the Suevia brand sold by Primeline Marketing, Cherokee, IA. The second room included two, standard, adjustable nipple waterers mounted in each of the 16 pens. The trial ended when all of the pigs went to market at 250-260 lb.
Cups Win Handily Nelson says LOL let him run the trial and decide if there was any difference in the two watering systems.
The results were almost staggering. "In that 3-month period, 10,000 less gal. of water was used in the room with cup waterers compared to that in the nipple drinker room," he observes. "I am not saying that the cups were the only factor for the water savings, but I guess I feel they had a lot to do with it."
That kind of water savings is due specifically to the design of the bowl waterer, says Nelson. The pig puts his snout inside the waterer, triggering the valve that releases the water. But he cannot trigger the release of more water than he can drink at one time.
"Pigs really can't get in there and play with the waterer," explains Terry Johnson, owner of Primeline Marketing. "When they get their snout in there and activate the pin which releases the water, they either drink the water or they can't breathe because when the water cup gets full it puts their nostrils under water."
The Suevia line of hog waterers is made in Germany. Primeline Marketing is the U.S. importer and sells the product wholesale to dealers who sell the line of five different models to producers. Models range from a size for newborns up to a size for large hogs over 280 lbs.
Johnson says the model Nelson has in one of his buildings and was used in the trial is the 95R, designed for hogs from 8 lb. to 280 lb. The models fit the pig's snout, to prevent water waste.
Johnson warns if the producer attempts to use model 95R in a wean-to-finish system, where pigs might start on the cups as small as 8 lb., the producer will encounter some water spillage.
Water Savings Go Far Using the cup waterer can create water savings in several ways, according to Nelson. If you are hooked up to rural water lines for your main water source or as a backup, cup waterers can reduce your water bill, he says.
Also, reducing water waste can turn into some real dollar savings if you are paying for manure removal, he says. "Right now, if you are hauling in excess of a mile away from your farm location, it will cost you at least a penny a gallon to hire a custom manure hauler, and it's probably going to be higher than that," Nelson observes. Hauling a million gal. at a penny a gallon is $10,000. Cup waterers could help cut that cost, he notes.
Getting water medication into a group of sick pigs can be critical, too. The less water wasted, the better job of medicating, according to Nelson.
Low Maintenance For Nelson, another big plus he has realized from the bowl waterer is low labor and maintenance. With the 95R for 50 lb. to finish, there are no height adjustments. Set it at 4-5 in. from the floor to the lip of the bowl and leave it there, he says. With traditional nipple waterers, he reports having to adjust the height at least twice during grow-finish.
The valve is the only moving part to be replaced in the Suevia cup waterer, says Johnson. It has taken several years before Nelson replaced any of the springs and the O ring in the valves.
The waterers are made of cast iron with a porcelain finish. If one ever breaks from normal use, it will be replaced free of charge, says Johnson. Since 1989, when the waterer was introduced to the U.S., not a single waterer has had to be replaced from damage during normal use, he says.
The only way the waterer has broken is when a producer installed it on a gate and over-tightened a bolt.
In addition to finishing, Nelson runs a 200-sow, farrow-to-finish farm.