Water intake is a key factor influencing feed intake, which is the main driver of growth in pigs.
Factors which can reduce water intake include poor drinker design. In addition the economy of water usage is important for both financial and slurry volume control reasons. A total of 720 Landrace x Large White pigs, grouped in pens of 20, were offered water from six different drinker arrangements. The standard Drik-O-Mat bowl drinker was compared with the normal Verba nipple drinker, the Halfman Bite drinker and the Jalmarsen Bite Ball drinker, flow rates (ml/min) 250, 600, 700 and 1200 respectively. Two drinkers/nipples were offered per pen. The position of the Drik-O-Mat bowl and Verba nipple drinkers was also compared. Drinkers were either placed side by side or 2 metres apart. When pigs were offered water from the 6 drinker arrangements, no difference in growth performance was found. However, significantly more water was used with the Halfman Bite and Jalmarsen Bite Ball drinkers compared to the Drik-O-Mat Bowl and Verba Nipple drinkers. Behavioural observations showed that this was due to a greater use of these drinkers for ‘recreational’ purposes than other drinkers.
Although pigs appeared to adapt more quickly post weaning to the Halfman Bite and Jalmarsen Bite Ball drinkers, overall the extra water used was assumed to be wasted and increased slurry volume. If this assumption is correct the use of the Halfman Bite and Jalmarsen Bite Ball drinkers, compared to the Verba nipple drinkers resulted in an extra 17 and 32 tanker loads (1500 gallons) of slurry produced per year respectively. When the Drik-O-Mat Bowl drinkers were placed apart, significantly less water was used compared to when they were side by side. This was accompanied by a significant reduction in swapping between drinkers.
These effects did not occur to the same extent when Verba Nipple drinkers were placed apart, and this suggests that the benefits of placing drinkers apart are reduced when higher water flow rates are used.
In conclusion, no difference in growth rate of weaned pigs from 4–10 weeks of age was observed with pigs offered water via either Drik-O-Mat bowl, Verba Nipple, Halfman Bite or Jalmarsen Bite Ball drinkers but significantly more water was used with the latter two drinkers. There is some evidence that water usage could be reduced by placing Drik-O-Mat bowl drinkers approximately 2 meters apart within pens.