The importance of water for pig health

Water is needed by pigs to meet their physiological requirements. Most metabolic functions, as well as the transfer of nutrients to body tissues and organs, joint lubrication, body temperature changes, waste removal, milk processing, and growth and reproduction – including semen production – are included.

A pig can lose most of its fat and half of its body protein without dying, as well as up to 10% of its water content without affecting results, but if it loses even 10% of its water content, it will die quickly. The pig maintains a constant water balance, with the most significant source being drinking, though some additional water is generated in the body via the breakdown of dietary carbohydrate, fat, and protein. The pig loses water via urine, faeces, respiration, and from the skin.

Age, what they're fed and the crude protein content of their feed, weather/climate, health status, given wallows, and form of husbandry (indoor/outdoor) all affect this intake-output balance, so the quantity needed cannot be quoted in absolute liters.

Crude protein levels

Water consumption rises in direct proportion to the amount of crude protein in the diet, so pigs fed 13 percent crude protein would drink less than those fed 16 percent or more. Pigs fed a pelleted feed often need more water than pigs fed a wet meal or, more interestingly, a dry meal. Underfed pigs are said to increase their water intake, particularly in gestating sows, in an attempt to "feel whole." Pigs fed a diet supplemented with allowed fruit and vegetable waste drink less naturally.

Effects of disease

Diseased pigs need more water than healthy pigs of the same age and body weight, particularly if the illness is followed by diarrhea or the animal has a fever. When more water is lost, this makes perfect sense. By placing extra troughs near the sleeping quarters, you will encourage people to drink.

Working boars

When ‘working' boars put in a lot of effort and generate up to 450 ml (15 fl.oz.) of semen at each operation, it creates a water shortage that needs to be replenished.


Muddy wallows are an important tool for outdoor-reared pigs to stay cool in hot weather by transferring body heat, and if you don't have one, the pig can make one out of the only water they have – the water in their trough! Pigs are smart, but they don't see that this limits the amount of water available for drinking.


Hot weather puts extra pressure on the pig to stay cool, and since they lack functional sweat glands, one way they can cool down is by urinating. This, on the other hand, necessitates them ingesting more water. Pigs are naturally smart enough to restrict their feed intake in hot weather in order to reduce the metabolic heat produced by digestion, which can help the pig to maintain its water balance by feeding at the cooler ends of the day.

Trough sizing

Water troughs of various sizes should be used for different ages, and keep in mind that piglets, who need water from the age of two weeks, can be able to get in but not out, so choose trough depths carefully. When pigs have the opportunity, they will purposefully tip troughs over for a variety of reasons, including enjoyment, boredom, or the opportunity to lie in the cooling spilt water.

Apart from freezing weather, you can prevent this problem if you have automatic water dispensers mounted. This involves nipple drinkers, which are teats connected to the mains water supply through pipes that provide continuous fresh water without the need for washing. Careful maintenance is required as they can get stuck and flood everything and as the flow rates are known to affect the ability to digest feed efficiently they can be detrimental if set incorrectly.

Pigs are pretty good at looking after themselves if they are given the right husbandry conditions and plenty of fresh, palatable water. The difference between okay and excellent water management is how your system cares for the needs of those who become ill or vulnerable in other ways.

Pig Breeding & Genetics Pig Feeds Pigs
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