Water plays a multiple role in health. It is involved in all the physical, biological and biochemical processes of living beings and is indispensable. Contrary to popular belief, in pig production, water quality also plays an important role in animal health and growth. The recommended water parameters vary according to the age of the animals and the type of farming (maternity, fattening.)
Physical and biological properties
Pigs are generally quite tolerant of unusual colors and tastes. However, turbidity, color and odor can hide problems.
Turbidity (the opacity of water) is caused by suspended matter in the water, such as silt or clay, or decaying organic matter. The presence of microorganisms can be problematic if they are pathogenic. Color is only a concern when caused by a contaminant. Malodorous water may require further analysis. Microbiological contamination and the presence of organic matter in various stages of decomposition are the most common causes of unpleasant odors.
Pigs can adapt to water of various qualities, however, assessment and adherence to chemical properties is important. For example, if the amount of sulfate exceeds a certain ratio, it can cause transient diarrhea to piglets. On the other hand, conductivity (the ability of water to transmit an electric current) can be harmful to animal health if it is too high.
Precautionary measures and sources of contamination
Above all, it must be ensured that the water source cannot be affected by external contamination (accidental manure spills, rotting animal carcasses, presence of solvents, hydrocarbons and other external factors).
Indicators of bacterial contamination of water are: total coliforms and faecal coliforms. Total coliforms are bacteria found in vegetation, animal droppings, sewage and soil.
The ability of pigs to safely consume water that is too high in mineral salts and chemical contaminants varies with age, health status, the length of time the animals drink the water and, of course, the level of contaminants.
Water used for drinking on pig farms frequently contains dissolved solids as well as suspended solids. Total solids should never exceed 3000 mg/L, according to Canadian water quality guidelines. Since solids are generally good electrical conductors, conductivity measurement is frequently used to determine potability parameters.
Some exmples of contaminants
– Too much magnesium combined with sulphur can cause intestinal problems.
– Too much calcium can interfere with phosphorus assimilation
– Sulfate overload can cause diarrhea to piglets.
– Too much salt can lead to health problems in pigs.
– The presence of blue-green algae can, depending on their concentration, make the water unfit for consumption by pigs.
Water quality in pig production and according to the type of farming requires sustained attention to ensure that water parameters are constant, adapted to the type of farming and representative of the animals’ needs to enable farmers to achieve optimal growth and production performance.
Patience, J.F. » Water Quality Issues in Pork Production « , dans Proceedings of the 2011 Allan D. Leman Conference, 2011, pp.157-164.