3 April 1998

Drinker:pig ratios safe at 1:20 levels

ALTHOUGH welfare codes recommend water drinker:pig ratios of 1:10, researchers have found a ratio of 1:20 adequate if flow-rates are maintained and there is a minimum of two drinkers in a pen.

According to SAC researcher, Simon Turner, there appears to be no scientific evidence behind some welfare recommendations which can restrict a producers livelihood if enforced.

"It appears that best practice has been adopted from whenever the code was written with an extra margin for safety added," he said.

Working with Sandra Edwards, also of SAC, Mr Turner monitored water use, productivity and pig behaviour in different pig group sizes and with drinker to pig ratios of 1:10 or 1:20.

During the five-week trial period water intakes for 640 Large White growing pigs averaged 5 litres a pig a day for groups of 60 pigs against 3.6 litres a pig a day for groups of 20 pigs. Pigs require 3.5 litres a day between 35 and 55kg liveweight, he suggested.

"There is more competition for drinkers in the larger group size with smallest number of drinkers. The number of drinking bouts terminated by aggressive behaviour was higher, but overall only accounted for 5% of aggression."

During the trial no significant effect on productivity or skin damage was recorded. Flow rates should be checked regularly and achieve 670ml/min. "They can be easily checked with a litre jug and a watch," he adds.

Provided water flow rates are maintained, drinker:pig ratios of 1:20 are adequate.