For help with finding the drinkers you require, please see our Welfare Standards for Pigs section at the bottom of the page.

Welfare Standards for Pigs - Water

The 2016 RSPCA Welfare Standards for Pigs and The Code of Recommendations for the Welfare Livestock for Pigs state that "All pigs over two weeks of age must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of fresh drinking water." (Statement can be found: The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003 No. 299), Schedule 6, Part II, paragraph 15.)

As with people, water for pigs is essential for nearly all bodily functions, growth, food absorption, temperature regulation and excretion of waste. Newborn pigs are over 80% water, whereas a finisher pig is approximately 55% water. Severe water deprivation can result in death. The effects of even minor dehydration are reduced feed intake leading to lower daily weight gain. Pooer feed conversion leads to reduced milk production and lower weaning weights. So it is sensible to check the water supply when performance problems are being investigated as well as the feed.

Action for drinking water.

  • Have more than one drinker per pen; if one fails, the other is a back up.
  • Check the drinkers are functioning on a daily basis.
  • Install drinkers at the correct height (see Chart 2 below). As the pigs grow, they will need drinkers at different heights, so an adjustbale height drinker bracket can be a practical option.
  • Check flow rate of nipple drinkers (Nipple drinkers have an adjustable flow rate below the mesh filter, see Nipple Drinker technical information for details). Water pressure, pipe diameter and pipe length all affect water flow rate. The drinker furthest from the tank may have a different flow rate to the closest.
  • To check the flow rate, time how long it takes to fill a jug to the 1 litre mark, then compare this to Chart 1.
  • Wet and Dry feeder systems required that an additional nipple drinker would be provided per 10 pigs.
  • Pipe Line Wet Feed systems require that an additional drinker be provided per 30 pigs.
Pig Drinking Water

Chart 1

Drinking water for pigs. Flow rates for nipple drinkers.

Class of Pig Flow Rate in litres per minute Estimated Daily Requirement (litres)
Newly Weaned 0.3 l m-1 1.0 to 1.5
Up to 20 kg 0.5 to 1.0 l m-1 1.5 to 2.0
20 kg to 40 kg 1.0 to 1.5 l m-1 2.0 to 5.0
Finisher Pigs up to 100 kg 1.0 to 1.5 l m-1 5.0 to 6.0
Sows and Gilts. Pre-service and in pig. 2.0 l m-1 5.0 to 8.0
Sows and Gilts in lactation 2.0 l m-1 15.0 to 30.0
Boars 2.0 l m-1 5.0 to 8.0

Chart 2

Nipple Drinker installation heights.

Liveweight Height of drinker in cm Height of drinker in inches
7 kg - 20 kg 25 cm - 35 cm 10" - 14"
20 kg - 35 kg 35 cm - 45 cm 14" - 18"
35 kg - 60 kg 45 cm - 60 cm 18" - 24"
60 kg - 100 kg 60 cm - 75 cm 24" - 30"
Gilts 75 cm 30"
Sows and Boars 80 cm - 95 cm 32" - 38"

Chart 3

Drinker Requirements.

Pig Drinker Type Minimum Requirement for Grower/Finisher Pig (BPEX guidance) Minimum Requirement for Grower/Finisher Pig (RSPCA Freedom Foods guidance)
Nipple Drinker (restricted fed) 1 per 10 pigs 1 space* per 10 pigs
Nipple Drinker (ad-lib fed) 1 per 15 pigs 1 space* per 10 pigs
Bowl (restricted fed) 1 per 20 pigs 1 space* per 10 pigs
Bowl (ad-lib fed) 1 per 30 pigs 1 to 2 spaces* per 10 pigs
Drinker Trough (Channel or River) 25 pigs per 30 cm Pigs up to 25 kg - 50 pigs per metre of drinking space.
Pigs 25 kg to 40 kg - 42 pigs per metre of drinking space.
Pigs over 40 kg - 34 pigs per metre of drinking space.

* Freedom Foods drinker requirements guidance:
One space is the space required by a pig to drink.
Bowls that allow space for two pigs to drink together can be counted as two spaces.However, if the pigs are small to start with, it is likely that the bowl will become a single space as the pigs grow larger.

Please note: These instructions and guidelines are as we interpret them, please get guidance directly from the RSPCA Freedom Foods as their interpretation may vary.

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