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Don’t overlook water quality

“Water tends to be the forgotten nutrient,” says Bob TenHove, Cargill Account Manager. “A health situation may come along, and producers don’t even think that water might be causing a problem.” 

Ensuring that water is of good quality, properly delivered, and available to all pigs is not always as easy as it sounds. TenHove tells about a customer whose pigs had low feed intake. 

“When you entered the farrowing rooms you could smell that something was not right in the barn,” he says. Prior consultants were looking at feed, equipment and ventilation as potential causes. 

“We took a quick measurement of water consumption and those poor pigs weren’t drinking anything,” he recalls. “The high pH levels showed the water was unpalatable. It was a matter of changing the pH and adding some acid. We were able to mitigate the pH concern and began getting the feed intake we wanted. All of a sudden, the piglet viability in that building improved. It was a major turnaround.” 

Water samples are important 

“Water samples provide a report card, so producers know what they’re dealing with,” says Erin Ehinger, Cargill Production Support Specialist. “Maybe the farm has a disease problem like E. coli that you haven’t been able to figure out. Or maybe it feels like the water medication isn’t working the way it should. We need to know what’s on that water report card,” she added. 

Low water intake usually results in low feed intake, TenHove said. Also, high ammonia levels in the barn can be an indicator of a water concern. 

The well-head is a good place to take samples, says Ehinger, to know what’s happening at the source. Also, look at the barn entrance, especially if there are any filters or water softeners being used.  

“You should also sample at the end of the line – at the last pig drinker,” she says. “Then we know if the contamination is happening in the barn and if the water lines are harboring disease.” 

The first samples should be as broad as possible, adds TenHove. Producers should sample for coliforms because they are a good indication of what’s going on in the water, along with pH levels. The next step is a program with peroxides to clean the system. 

Work with a trusted consultant to develop a plan, they recommend. To learn more, listen to this podcast