Water Management

Water is an essential element in livestock production. It's important to manage this natural resource carefully for best production and financial results. Here are five ideas on how to do that.

Start by doing a water audit. Wasted water costs money to pump and to dispose of. If you're serious about water management, install a meter and compare consumption with what the animals need, as a means of detecting problems. For grower and finisher pigs water requirements have been found to be 2.3L for every kilogram of feed consumed. For sows on a farrow to finish farm, average daily usage has been found to be about 20L per sow (see table, from "Water Requirements of Livestock", OMAFRA Factsheet 716/400).

Second, check drinker placement. Mounting nipple drinkers correctly reduces wasted water. For drinkers pointed straight out pigs should drink from shoulder height. For drinkers mounted downward at 45° the drinker should be 5cm above the back of the pig. Mounting lower will increase water wastage because the pigs can't access the drinker properly. Generally, drinkers should be set for the height of the smallest pig in the pen. In research trials, however, providing a step for smaller pigs instead of mounting the drinker lower resulted in a 13% reduction of water waste, and reduced manure volume by 10% compared to a conventional setup.

Third, check drinker flow rates. Flow rates determine time spent at the drinker, water intake and water wastage, but too little is just as costly as too much since it will adversely affect feed intake and animal growth performance. Recommended flow rates are 1,500 ml/min for lactating sows, and 700 ml/min in the grow-finish barn.

Fourth, consider alternatives to nipple drinkers. Cup or bowl drinkers have been shown to waste less water, reducing spillage by 10-15%. Wet/dry feeders in the grow finish phase reduce water used by 34%, and slurry volume by 20-40% compared with dry feeders and a bowl. Wet/dry feeders also increase consumption of mash diets compared to dry feeders and a separate drinker, resulting in a 5% improvement in average daily gain. Be sure they are properly adjusted.

Finally, assess the diet. Feeding a diet containing excessive protein or excessive mineral levels results in increased water usage.

Of course, remember that temperature impacts water requirements. For example, every 1° above 20°C results in a sow drinking 0.2L more water each day. For more information, refer to the OMAFRA Factsheet "Water Requirements of Livestock" (Agdex 716/400).

Water Consumption by Swine

�Swine Type

Weight Range

Water Requirement Rangea

Average Typical Water Useb





Feeder pig










Gestating sow/boar




Lactating sows




a A result of the animals' environment and management.
b Typical consumption over a year on a daily basis under average agricultural conditions in Ontario.
c Includes unweaned piglets.

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For more information:
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E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca