The Power of Hydration
Water is the single most important nutrient needed by all animals and people! Water helps the body manage:
- Body Metabolic Functions (how the body converts food to energy to growth & development)
- Body Temperature (helps to reduce overheating)
- Digestion & Nutrient Movement into the Tissue & Organs
- Flushing Impurities & Removing Metabolic Waste (Flush out sickness)
- Milk Production (as appropriate!).
A pig’s body weight is 50% water. Pigs consume most of their water by drinking, but water added to their feed can allow their body to absorb water deeply into the muscles and tissue to create fullness that can help in the show ring. It’s also a great way to combat dehydration. Feeding your market pig wet feed over time will increase your Average Daily weight Gains (ADG).
Daily Water Intake
- Nursery Pigs (to 60 lbs.) 1-2 Gallons
- Grower Pigs (60-100 lbs.) 2-3 Gallons
- Finisher Pigs (100-250 lbs.) 3-5 Gallons
HOW PIGS LOOSE WATER (DEHYDRATION)
Pigs’ loose water by urine, feces & heat through their skin. It’s your job to make sure all of the listed items are met to ensure that your pig is drinking an adequate quantity of water. So how do you know how much water is being consumed?
Factors that Effect Hydration & Water Intake are -
- Climate – hot or cold weather
- Environment – Clean, shaded, low dust pens are best.
- Health – Healthy animals drink more water. A sick or cold animal will not drink water!
- Water – Clean, Cool & Bug-Free Water is best – Clean water daily!
Water Situations to Fix –
- Hot Temperatures – Hot days will help to cook away your pig’s hydration levels. Be sure that the pen & water source is shaded. Even the hose leading to the lixit can heat the water to extremely hot temperatures! Make sure that the hose is not exposed to direct sunlight and test the water source at the lixit to verify the water temperature. If it’s too hot, attach a water bucket to the fence in the shade. Add fans & misters to the create circulation and cool the air. Your pig will likely start drinking and rooting in the water bucket. See article on Pen Temperatures for more information.
- Cold Temperatures –Pigs like warm environments. If the pen is too cold, the pi g will not eat, drink or grow well and can exposed them to potential illness. Keep in mind that your pig does not have a winter coat like the other animals, so give them a warm place. Comfortable temperatures help to encourage drinking. Add a heat lamp on a timer if it’s below 60 degrees.
- The Health of your Pig –If your pig is sick or showing signs of diarrhea, it is safe to assume that they may be de-hydrated. Besides taking steps to remedy the illness, add electrolytes to a bucket of clean cool water. This will help to get the pig replenished and re-hydrated. If your pig drinks from a lixit, they sometimes will enjoy the change of drinking from a bucket. All animals seem to like the attention of being hand fed or watered. So if they are sick, give them some personal care by hand watering and feeding. It also lets you see how much water is being consumed. If you think that your pig is not well, look at the Daily Health Checklist and let your advisor know the findings. The duroc pig in the picture was running a fever and didn’t feel good.
- The Environment–A clean, dust free and shaded pen with thick shavings is a great place for your pig. A happy pig eats and drinks well! What can cause dehydration is a hot, dusty, or dirty pen. The pig with diarrhea improved with a de-wormer, a shot of antibiotics, straw bedding (to control dust) & a change to a higher quality in feed.
- Water Issues –Water needs to be clean, cool and plentiful. If your water bucket is green with alge or infested with bugs, you’re going to have issues with your pig. If your pig muddies up the water bucket, always clean it out and prepare a clean area to drink. Most pigs prefer a shaded water lix-it faucet with a shallow water trough below to catch excess water. The water trough helps to control the mud puddle they create by playing with the lixit and it also gives them something to play with. Also, keep all water troughs out of direct sunlight. This will help to keep the water temperature cooler and the larva & algae from growing. Check and clean the trough daily! A little time spent cleaning will always be a good habit!
Setting up a Lixit for your Pig
- Purchase a Lixit with a play guard.
- Apply pipe thread to a ½ diameter galvanized pipe and apply your lixit. A 12” length pipe should be sufficient.
- Strap the pipe securely to a post with a hose attached.
- Secure the hose with strapping or zip ties up the post and along the fence to the water source. Be sure not to overtighten to crimp the water supply. The lixit should be about shoulder high to the animal.
- Turn the water on to a very slow flow. Test the lixit to see how much water is streaming.
Check daily to verify that the water is turned on and flowing.
Show your animal the water by moving the nipple control and letting water trickle out. Your animal will likely start sniffing and checking out the new toy. Yes, it will be a toy for pigs.
If you find that your pig is creating a mini lake under their lixit, attach a bucket under the lixit to capture excess water. This will give the pig another place to drink and play.
Summary –Water consumption can be a factor easily overlooked in your feed program. But with a few steps to your daily management, your Sheep or lamb will most likely be fine! I had a horse trainer tell me that if I wouldn’t drink from the animal’s water source…neither should they! It’s always stuck with me and is now part of my daily feed program. Good water intake is good for all of us! Have you ever been outside and decided to take a drink from the hose? Sometimes it’s not a good experience! Well use that experience to your lamb’s benefit! Cool and clean wins in the end!