Sunday, November 19, 2017
Piglets need water as much as they need feed.Providing water to suckling and weaned piglets does not stop at having one water outlet per pen as these animals undergo significant digestive development during this period. Sow’s milk contains about 80 percent water, and therefore it is often assumed that suckling piglets cover their daily water requirements without supplemental water. As a result, on many farms, farrowing crates are not equipped with a water delivery system for piglets, and water is provided for the first time only after weaning. In such cases, it is quite common to observe piglets trying to reach the water devices installed for sows. Nevertheless, most experts agree that supplemental water actually benefits suckling piglets, and these benefits greatly outweigh the cost of providing water for piglets in farrowing crates. Dehydration during the first few days after birth is a common cause of death in newborn pigs, especially among light and weak piglets that fail to consume enough milk. It has been suggested that provision of drinking water may reduce pre-weaning mortality from dehydration, especially when environmental temperature is excessive. It should be noted that water loss (mainly from evaporation) in piglets housed under common heaters is about 155 g/day per kg body weight, and that piglets housed at 28 C (82.4 F) consume four times more water than piglets housed at 20 C (68 F). Therefore, when milk intake is limited or environmental temperature is excessive, a source of fresh drinking water should be provided to reduce dehydration and sustain life. Supplemental water may also be beneficial to suckling piglets suffering from diarrhea, which causes severe water loss from the gut. It is interesting to note that newborn pigs are able to drink water within the first 2 hours after birth, indicating a need for water in addition to that supplied by sow’s colostrum or milk. It is also essential to provide drinking water to suckling piglets that actively consume solid feed. It has been demonstrated that piglets with free access to water eat more creep feed than piglets without supplemental water (3,215 versus 2,166 g/pig, respectively). The importance of drinking water in supporting vigorous intake of dry feed increases with weaning age. In production systems practicing very early weaning, creep intake is rather trivial and, thus, the effect of water on feed intake is minimal. But, in production systems that wean pigs about 3 to 4 weeks of age, creep intake can be substantial, and supplemental drinking water must always be provided. Piglets need water as much as they need feed.