Would you drink your livestock's water?

The quality of drinking water for livestock is often questionable. Research in the Netherlands has shown that the bacterial load, at the point animals drink, often are above the allowed limit*. This shows how important it is to carefully and thoroughly manage the water supply on the farms, through the entire water system until the water reaches the animal. By controlling the pathogenic bacterial load on the animals, along with other benefits in the gastro-intestinal tract, their well being can be improved.

Water is an essential part of animal nutrition
Dependent on species, water consumption is 1.6 to 2.5 times higher than feed intake. This demonstrates the importance of water on performance, health and welfare. Water acts as a carrier for other nutrients, assists in digestion and aids nutrient absorption. Livestock would not be able to utilize the nutrients provided in feed, without a regular supply of drinking water. It is essential for most physiological processes from muscle to brain function; as well as facilitating the elimination of bodily waste. During a disease challenge, animals often drink, even after they have stopped eating, this is sustaining them during recovery until their appetite returns.

The importance of clean water
Water is essential for life and clean water is essential for animal health. Without it, livestock are not able to reach their performance potential. When talking about clean water, there is the element of dirt but most importantly bacterial load, which is measured in colony forming units (CFU). It is these vectors of disease, which have a negative effect on the health and performance of livestock. There is also a risk of biofilm formation in the water lines.

Feed manufactures are required to take samples of feed and test for bacterial load at various points during manufacture and storage. And producers themselves will also take feed samples for testing if required. But how often and at which point is drinking water tested? Water on farms may come from the mains or public, a borehole or spring. Issues include; chlorination, mineral deposits, algae growth and particulate matter. Whether the water is hard or soft water (amount of dissolved limestone) – can influence biofilm formation and water intake. All of these elements of water quality need to be considered. Therefore, it is imperative to have a thorough and effective water management plan to ensure animals can perform optimally and have a good standard of health and welfare. The effect of using  combined and buffered organic acids, has been proven in the field for many years. It is safe, effective and easy to use not only in feed, but also in drinking water.

Why reduce the pH of drinking water?
The use of organic acids, however, is not only about controlling pathogenic bacteria and molds.. Their use lowers stomach pH and improves animal performance. This can be seen in Figure 1. - when the pH is reduced to between 3.5 and 4.5 the growth of pathogenic bacteria, as well as some molds, is inhibited. In addition, this pH range encourages the growth of beneficial lactic acid forming bacteria, which support gut function and enhance nutritional utilization. 

For this reason, it is recommended that producers regularly check the pH of the drinking water, at the point where their animals drink – nipple, cup or bowl drinkers. This will ensure that the pH is optimum to prevent microbial growth. For poultry the pH should be between 3.5 and 4.0 and for pigs it should fall between 3.8 and 4.0. These levels mean that acidification is at a sufficient level and will be effective without impacting the water intake.

Figure 1. The effect of water pH on bacterial growthoptimum growth micro organism

Organic acids and more
The use of organic acids is one of the most effective way of reducing the pH of drinking water and improving its quality. As described reducing the bacterial load in the water and having additional gut function benefits within the animal. However, in order to enhance the effect of organic acids, complementary elements can be added. Selected essential oil have well-documented anti-bacterial effects both in water and within the animals themselves. Having the effect of further reducing the CFU count, which is particularly important when bacterial pressure in the water source or system is high. Glycerol esters of butyric acid can also be added to water treatment solutions in order to enhance the effect of organic acids throughout the gastrointestinal tract, supporting both health and performance.

It is also important to regularly clean the drinker lines and the drinkers themselves. This should be done before starting to use an organic acid based product. When dirt and bacteria are allowed to build up in the drinking system, biofilms form. Biofilms are a community of one or more types of bacteria, which stick together and to a wet surface – sometimes in combination with fungi and protozoa. This behavior makes the resident bacteria much harder to kill than if they were individual free-swimming microorganisms. Factors that increase the likelihood of biofilms developing are:

  • Dead ends in the pipes
  • Low water flow or pressure
  • Medication, vitamins or other additives supplied via the drinking water
  • Dirt entering nipples or drinkers
  • High temperature in farms
  • PVC or Tylene pipes

Water treatment
The main reason to use solutions based on organic acids is that they reduce the pH in the drinking water, the feed once in the stomach and throughout the gastrointestinal tract. The inclusion of essential oils and butyric acid glycerol esters enhance the effect of the organic acids. By doing so they create environments that are unfavorable for the growth of enterobacteria. Their effects are complementary to the use of organic acids in feed. Both having the effect of reducing bacterial pressure and supporting optimal gut function; allowing livestock to achieve their potential.

Products containing organic acids can also help to prevent biofilm formation within the drinking water system. When producers are reviewing their livestock management practices, a water quality program should be a top priority. This includes selecting optimal solutions for cleaning, monitoring and treating the water. When making decisions - the question at the front of producers’ minds should be – would I drink my animal’s water?

When you want the most economical solution for drinking water. The products reduce the risk of bacterial impact and demonstrate efficiency throughout the intestinal tract. The drinker system should be cleaned before using ProPhorce
. All three products in the range are added at one kg per thousand liters of drinking water, due to the highly concentrated mixture of organic acids. ProPhorce Classic NC, contains an optimal blend of buffered organic acids. ProPhorce Premium NC is enhanced with essential oils and ProPhorce Exclusive also has the addition of glycerol esters of butyric acid. The most appropriate product depends on the degree of bacterial pressure and if further support of gut function and efficiency are desired.