Water is the most important nutrient to a pig’s diet, yet many nutrition audits tend to overlook quantity, quality and methods used to deliver water to pigs. This leads to misunderstanding and mismanagement. Several industry experts recently addressed this forgotten nutrient at the 2020 Allen D. Leman Virtual Swine Conference.

Health concerns such as diarrhea (scours) have been connected to water quality issues. Scours can be caused by the outpouring of excess fluid into the small intestine because of E. coli and other bacterial toxins. While a pig’s gut normally contains bacteria such as E.coli, there are strains that are extremely harmful, especially to piglets. Cold, wet weather creates additional stress on animals and may compromise immunity making animals more susceptible to viral infections. Cleaning and disinfection practices are crucial to reducing microbial load in the environment and waterlines so pigs can remain healthy during times of stress.

Water quality standards for livestock are dated and more research is needed. Pigs are fairly tolerant of varying water qualities and production numbers monitored daily such as feed conversation rates and average daily gain may not be dramatically affected. Having your water tested at least once a year can help you better understand your water quality and ensure water is within an acceptable pH range, contains an acceptable amount of minerals and nutrients, and has not become contaminated by pathogens.

What else is in water, besides water?

Micronutrients and metals, such as iron, encourage bacterial growth, which causes biofilm to form. Water systems carrying a high load of biofilm are likely to harbor many types of bacteria, often in large quantities, resulting in bacterial contamination of the water. Protecting water supplies from bacterial contamination is critical to ensuring good water quality. Additionally, Nat Stas with the Pig Improvement Company shared that dirty water lines can reduce water flow by up to 30 percent or 1/8 inch in an ¾ inch line.

Biofilms can reduce antibacterial and disinfectant efficacy, leading to persistent infections in houses. Terminal waterline disinfection can eliminate harmful pathogens that can reinfect pigs or infect the next batch of pigs. Biofilms can also quickly disperse pathogens introduced into the water system in one area, such as the sick pen, throughout the barn.

Inline Biofilm Control

Oxidizing chemistries, such as chlorine bleach and PAA, will kill free-swimming and surface-level biofilm related microorganisms and may even state that they kill bacteria found in biofilm on their labels. However, it is not sufficient to simply kill bacteria found in biofilm. If the entire biofilm structure is not removed, bacteria can repopulate within 48 hours.

Sterilex Ultra Disinfectant Cleaner Solution 1 and Sterilex Ultra Activator Solution is an EPA-registered product that has the unique ability to penetrate and remove biofilms and simultaneously kill pathogens. It is the only product on the market specifically tailored to sanitize, disinfect, and remove biofilm in animal drinking lines.

By ensuring a safe and clean water supply, we are not only protecting our pigs from disease, but we are putting our best foot forward to enhance feed consumption and performance.