Sub-zero conditions last winter caused huge problems for pig farmers due to drinking systems freezing up, particularly in straw-based housing. In addition to leaving pigs without water, this caused extensive damage resulting in Suffolk, UK based Quality Equipment (G E Baker Ltd) receiving a flood of enquiries for new pipework and drinkers.
As a result, the company has introduced a new heating system which re-circulates warmed drinking water to overcome this problem. Water is warmed as it passes through a 3kW or 6kW heating element and is pumped around the system by a single-phase pump capable of servicing, respectively, circuits up to 250m or 400m long. Water can be heated up to 40ºC at the heating source, but the optimum setting depends upon ambient temperature, age of pigs and length of the pipe-run.
The system is simple to include in new housing and existing systems can be adapted. Plastic tubing is used for most of the circuit, since plastic retains heat, but metal piping is used where pigs can bite. Non-return valves prevent fresh water from becoming contaminated.
“One of the problems with some heating systems is that, while they keep water flowing in the ring-main, the downpipes leading to the drinkers and the drinkers themselves can still become frozen in severe weather,” commented Michael Mattmüller of Quality Equipment. “Our new system circulates water right down to the drinkers and ensures the whole installation remains ice-free.”
He points out that, apart from welfare considerations and the cost of repairs, there is a significant economic benefit from the water heating system. “It encourages pigs to drink, even in colder weather. If pigs don’t drink then they don’t eat — and if they don’t eat they don’t grow!” The system thus helps to avoid growth checks during the winter months.
Price of the installation — which can be used for all sows, weaners, growers and finishers — depends upon the size and layout of the house in which it is to be fitted.