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Treatment of Drinking Water: An opportunity for better results in Swine Production

by 5m Editor
19 June 2006, at 12:00am

By Luc Ledoux, CID LINES nv, Belgium - The importance of good drinking water is often underestimated. Pigs drink more than twice as much as they eat! At weaning, the water / feed ratio is about 4:1. Water will transport the nutrients in the body (and thus determine the digestion process), regulate the body temperature and eliminate toxical waste (keeping up the health status). So it has a big impact on both the health and the production results of your animals.

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The water itself can be a source of contamination when it's micro-biological condition is not optimal (too many germs). Moreover, it's chemical characteristics (eg. too hard, too much iron, too much calcium, too acid, …) can impede a sufficient consumption, a good digestion and a good absorbtion of additives like medicines, vaccines, vitamins , etc. Also its physical aspects (taste, odour, ...) can affect the consumption.

The adding of those additives itself will create an extracellular polysaccharide layer inside the tubes, known as the "biofilm", extracted by micro-organisms that attach themselves on the inside of the tube. The biofilm is between 5 and 500 micrometers thick. Inside it, various micro -organisms will develop and ultimately contaminate your pigs as further explained. You will not see it as it builds up inside your drinker lines, but be sure it's there.

Moreover, mineral deposits (esp. calcium) , known as "lime" or "scale" , will also build up inside your drinker lines and provide a shelter for micro-organisms.

Both phenomena can block your drinkers and will again affect the activity of all additives adversely. (The water delivery rate should be 500 ml/min for nursery pigs and 1000 to 1500 ml/ min for grow-finishing pigs.)

Inside the biofilm, we see a very heterogenous population of organisms. At it's outside, where more nutrients are to be found, there will be aerobic bacteria, such as Pseudomonas. In between, we find micro-aerophile bacteria, such as Legionella and Campylobacter, aerotolerant anaerobic bacteria and nitrate reducers, such as E. Coli. In the deepest level (closest to the pipe), we will find anaerobic bacteria such as sulphate reducers (Desulfovibrio).

Typically, "micro-consortia" will develop. This means: communities of symbiotic micro-organisms.

The adhered micro-organisms will develop different characteristics, compared with their "free floating" co-species. Immediately after adhesion, they will develop a "stem" which allows them to create a "matrix structure". They become now "immobilised biofilm bacteria". They will optimise their cell concentration to achieve a "quorum sensing level". Moreover, they will now be able to increase their resistance because of their changed cell structure (they become more hydrophobe because of changed outer proteins) and their development of proteins (increasing their resistance against a number of stress factors) , as E. coli bacteria do. Their tolerance level of "classical biocides" such as chlorine will be considerably higher. Thus, they will be more difficult to eradicate!

In metal pipes, biofilms can cause "Microbiological Induced Corrosion" (MIC) by the sulphate reducing bacteria. Those anaerobe bacteria will use sulphate as an electron acceptor and produce sulphides. Those sulphides will affect the odour and/or taste of the water adversely. The water can now become red by the corrosion of the iron pipes.

So we have to clean the lines first, removing the biofilm and the scale. Chlorine will not remove the biofilm (it won't even penetrate in it and it's effect is less at the end of the line, as chlorine gets neutralised by organic matter) , neither the scale but it will add an unpleasant taste and smell. A stabilised combination of hydrogen peroxide and organic acids (like CID 2000) will literally blow away the dirt. It's advisable to flush your main supply pipes once this dirt has been dissolved, in order to remove it physically. Only then you will start with clean lines, but is this enough ?

It's only the preliminary condition to further optimise your water, with the goal to improve your production result !

Therefore, it's extremely advantageous to further treat your water during the production cycle.

A further water treatment should avoid a new build-up of biofilm and scale. So it will allow your drinking system to function optimally . Moreover, it will allow the additives to work efficiently (Lactose based drugs will even enhance the biofilm development !) . But it will also allow to sanitise your water and thus the animals that drink it.

Therefore, you should add a stabilised product (like CID2000). This means that the action of this product should last long enough to reach the very last drinker , and to continue working in the body of the very last pig or piglet , both at the end of the house.

It should be remembered that the waterflow in the pipe is extremely low at the end of the line. So here the water will warm up the most, the biofilm deposit will be the biggest, and the contamination and infection risk will be the highest !

Optimum production results will be reached when the level of pathogens in the water is low, and when the digestion is optimised. The latter means that the speed of the of feed should be slow enough to allow the correct absorbtion process. Indeed, when the speed is too high, this will be observed by diarrhoea and the nutrients will not be absorbed properly This will cause worse FCR's, and less resistant animals. Because of the weaning (i.e. when the piglets change from mother milk to "feed") , a part of the "villi" is being taken off from the intestines. Thus, extra water gets produced in the intestinal tract and the nutrients are less absorbed. Together with the effects of moving (stress) , climate change , etc, this change in nutrients causes "weaning diarrhoea".

Therefore, often antibiotics are being used to CURE this.

This has following disadvantages :

  • cost increase
  • resistance
  • residues in the meat
  • disturbance of the positive intestinal flora (like lactobacilli)

The pH in the stomach of these monogastric animals is 3 to 4. Because of a too low production of hydrochloric acids, the pH in the stomach of young animals will be 5-6 , which reduces the protein digestion. The undigested material will provide nutrients in the intestines , suitable for the multiplication of entero pathogenic bacteria.

For optimising the digestion, the feed should be well prepared in the stomach. In an acid environment, pepsinogenes are transformed to pepsines, which allows a better digestion of proteins. The lower the pH, the more sodium bicarbonate and other enzymes will be produced by the pancreas, which will help the digestion as well.

Enterobacteria (like Salmonella and E. Coli) live in a pH 4.5 - 8 range. Lactobacilli ( = positive bacteria) live in a pH 2 - 8 range. Thus, we should create in the gastro intestinal tract a pH 2-4 range ideally.

Organic acids will be well absorbed by the cells, in contrast to anorganic acids.

Next to feed acidifiers, CID 2000 will (amongst other effects) acidify the water. Piglets drink about 4 times as much as they eat when weaned at 21 days (the water/feed ratio goes slowly down week by week). Their intake of feed is determined by their intake of water ! Hence the importance of water treatment with CID 2000, as from the first day of weaning.

In Europe , a lot of liquid feeding machines are used as well. The same application goes as for drinking lines : first cleaning at a higher concentration (with CID 2000 : 2 %) and flushing afterwards; and then adding to the water as a treatment in a lower dilution (CID 2000 : 0.03 %)

It is equally important that the product used does not leave any residues (such as heavy metals like silver nitrate) in the meat , so you can add it till the last day of production.

Last but not least, treating your drinking water correctly will reduce mortality and reduce the need for medication and save a lot of money bottom line ! We can conclude that ,after having cleaned the lines, good water treatment will give following benefit :

  • better digestion of the feed
  • better metabolism in the animal
  • healthier animals
  • less medication costs
  • less mortality
  • better quality in the slaughterhouse
  • better results, so : more profits.

Summary :

Drinking water is an important nutrient for pigs. At weaning, they can drink up to four times more as they eat ! Inside your drinker lines, a "biofilm" will form. It's an extracellular polisaccharide layer. Various pathogenic micro-organism will develop in it. They will change their structure into a matrix as they become "immobilised biofilm bacteria" , fixed by their stems. Their resistance will be higher than their "free floating co-species". The best way to remove the biofilm is by oxidising (using STABILISED hydrogen peroxide). Combining this oxidant with organic acids will also allow to treat the water continuously, thus sanitising AND acidifying it at the same time. CID 2000 is such a combination. The acidification will have an extra advantageous effect on the digestion. Feed will be better absorbed (diarrhoea will be dramatically reduced) and less medication will be needed.

Finally, the production result will improve, which translates to higher profits.