Mark Jagger updates us on our latest water project. 

Many who know me, know of my passion for the water our pigs drink, I have long talked about monitoring the usage and quality of the water both in-house and alongside AHDB.

These ideas are not mine but taken from the poultry sector, which has for some time now been monitoring and assessing the quality of the water and has seen valuable improvements in the broiler production process.

Splitting it down into two important considerations –

  1. Monitoring water intake – The broiler industry has found when the birds reduce their water intake for three successive days the birds are usually ill, showing clinical signs on day four.
  2. Water quality – This starts with a terminal disinfection of the water lines prior to the batch coming in (something many of us do), this reduces the total viable count (TVC) on the bacteria in the water lines, unfortunately, the bacteria in the lines are usually harmful pathogens such as E coli and salmonella.

Throughout the batch the lines are then constantly dosed when vaccines or medication are not administered, this is to maintain good levels of hygiene. The result of reducing the TVCs and maintaining low-level counts has in some cases reduced the crop length by 5-7 days, with improved Mortality, FCR, and daily live weight gain.


How does this effect BQP farms?

Pilgrims have invested in having TX boxes on all sites and are going to maintain the cost of the SIM cards to run them. The TX unit sends the water consumption reading from the select doser to the farmer, Fields person, and the BQP portal.  These are now in the process of being installed by each Fields person.

This going forwards will allow all to monitor water daily, in the form of a daily text. A text also goes to the portal which in the future will tie into the numbers on farm to give us all a total consumed amount per pig per day.

The idea being if the pigs reduce the water intake it can be picked up by the farmer or Fields team or even the portal going forwards, the vet can be alerted of problems that may be starting to arise.

Also, we can look at what the pigs should be drinking at a particular age and see if they are on track. I am very much aware all of this is very early days.


Pilgrims have seen great benefits in the poultry sector regarding clean water, they are now looking to apply this to the pigs.

Going forwards through March and maybe some of April. Phil Roberts and I will be looking to install x2 sampling points on the water lines in each farm. One at the source and the second at the furthest point away from the doser.

This is to give us all a benchmark for the farm of what the water line may or may not contain.

Working alongside the team at Roam Technology (the producers of Huwa San) the aim is to give the pigs the cleanest water possible.

Whilst doing this any farms with a borehole will be assessed for iron levels.


Known facts about iron are

  1. It harbours and aids the growth of Salmonella and E coli.
  2. It stops many medications from working.
  3. It reduces water intake due to taste and therefore feed intake, slowing the growth of the pig.
  4. It blocks drinkers causing extra work for the farmer and again reducing water intake.

BQP has installed some homemade filters on a few farms, and they are working exceedingly well, cheaper than the off-the-shelf products, with one filtering all the iron, out of the water and handling 60m³ per day. Weekly service time of ten minutes per week and refill costs of £50 per six months.

The result for this farm in combination with the use of Huwa San was reducing mortality by 2% and reducing FCR from 2.5s to 2.3s or an increase of 3-5p per pig per week.

I hope my ramblings may have instilled some interest in the subject of water. I think we all need to keep in mind that many of us take in a newly weaned naive piglet, if we are unwilling to let our child or grandchild drink what the piglet drinks, should we be happy with letting our pigs drink it?

Which would you rather drink?

Alternatively, the impact of poor water quality means a longer batch length, more food needed, and therefore a greater carbon footprint, which is currently very topical on social media.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.