Water has many important functions in the body including temperature regulation, transport of nutrients, lubrication, transport of waste materials, involvement in nearly all metabolic processes, and milk production. A lack of water can decrease feed consumption, reduce growth rate, and decrease the efficiency of feed utilization. For swine, a water deficit for lactating sows can reduce milk production, which can influence the growth of piglets and/or cause excess weight loss of sows.

Water Quality is Important
In addition to water availability, water quality is vital to good animal performance.

Pigs do not tolerate high levels of sulfates well and performance can be reduced and diarrhea present when sulfates exceed 7,000 ppm in water.  Newly weaned pigs are most susceptible to problems associated with high sulfate levels. Even though pigs can adapt to high sulfate water over time, the newly weaned pig is just starting to consume water and would not be adapted to water containing high levels of sulfates. Sulfates can also have a laxative effect in poultry thereby degrading health and performance.

Nitrate and nitrite levels in water can be a potential problem for pigs. High levels of nitrate in water occur most often due to runoff from heavily fertilized fields. Nitrates and nitrites in water can reduce overall animal performance by impairing vitamin A utilization. However, the level required to reduce performance is quite high (>750 mg nitrate/liter of water).  Practically, nitrates in water should be less than 300 ppm and nitrites should be less than 10 ppm.

The toxicity of nitrates to poultry varies with the age of the birds, older birds being more tolerant. Levels in excess of 50 mg per liter for chickens and 75 mg per liter for turkeys have proven harmful in laboratory trials. A recent study with commercial broilers showed that nitrate levels greater than 20 mg per liter had a negative affect on weight, feed conversion, or performance. Levels between 3 and 20 mg per liter were suspected to affect performance. Nitrites are toxic at much lower levels than nitrates; concentrations as low as 1 mg per liter can be toxic.(1)

The presence of coliforms in water is indicative of fecal contamination. Levels of coliforms greater than 4 ppm suggest a contamination level, which can cause health concerns. At the very least, this level of coliforms can reduce flow rate or even block water lines.

Spring Time Quality Check
Spring is an excellent time to check your well water. Melting snow, rain, and manure applications can all affect water quality. Nitrogen in spring manure and fertilizer applications becomes nitrates in the soil. Spring rains and snow can push those nitrates into your water. Just like nitrates, bacteria from manure can find its way into your well also.

Wenger Feeds’ sister division, Dutchland Farms’, offers Flock Service. Their Pullet and Flock Services Technicians recommend testing the water in a layer house 1-2 times a year. Pullet flocks are tested at the beginning of each flock or about 2 times per year. Samples are tested for E. Coli and coliforms. If the test shows the water is contaminated, it is treated then retested to ensure the treatment was successful.

Dutchland’s service teams recommend flushing between flocks. A cleaner/disinfect is recommended to clean the lines and remove bacteria.

Some farms also flush their lines daily in the summer’s hottest days to keep fresh, cool water flowing to the birds.

Wenger Feeds, offers an array of water tests including hardness, pH, iron, nitrates, sulfates, E.coli, and total coliform. Sterile water collection bottles are provided.

1. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

For more information about Wenger Feeds’ Products and Services, contact us.