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How to Water Your Pig – Everything You Need To Know

By Joanne Rowe / February 28, 2013
Pig in Water

We all know that pigs need a constant supply of fresh water, but how are you going to give them their water. How do make sure they never run out? Well, there are various options out there, some simple, others involve a little DIY and a bit of plumbing.

Simple Watering System and Drinker For Hogs and Pigs

One of the simplest and best ways to water your pig is a bucket placed in an old car tire. A brick or large stone placed in the bottom of the bucket will help prevent it being overturned and split.

Cheap Pig Waterer

A flat type bucket in an old car tyre – cheap effective pig waterer

A flatter wider type bucket is recommended and makes a better waterer. If you use a high sided bucket your pig may not be able to get at the water, especially if you have a small piglet or a weaner.

I always have a few of these buckets and tyre’s kept spare as they do come in handy. They make great replacements when our automatic watering systems stop working or freeze in the winter.

Be very careful using these watering system with very small piglets and weaners. There is always the risk of piglets falling in and drowning if they are unable to get out. If you do choose to use this system around young piglets make sure you fill part of the bucket with stones or clean gravel. The water level only wants to be a few inches deep at the most. This will help prevent the piglets from sinking if they fall in and they should be able to get out more easily.

Automatic Pig Watering System

Some folk (ourselves included) might want to opt for an automated water system. Any system like this requires a bit of DIY and plumbing. Watering systems for pigs differ slightly from other livestock watering systems, this is mainly  due to size and shape of the animal. Pigs are also strong, have powerful jaw muscles, and sharp teeth – this means that any waterers you use need to be strong and robust.

The great thing about an automatic water system is that you won’t need to fill up your pigs water everyday. This means no lugging heavy buckets of water around for your hog. If your watering system is working correctly your pig will have a constant supply of fresh water, and should never run out. This is essential for those hotter warmer days.

Plastic or Metal Water Feeders: which are best?

We have tried both plastic and metal drinkers,  in our opinion metal water feeders are the best. They are more durable, hard wearing, they also can usually hold more water. Metal water feeders seem to be a take more punishment from a pig.

Another advantage of metal water feeder is that most of the internal parts and components are replaceable. This means you can service and repair them yourself if they break or stop working.

Metal Water Bowl for Hogs

Heavy Duty Water feeder for pigs – notice how the there is the bare minimum of piping exposed when feeding into the pig pen (pipe inlet is at the right of the photo)

Water bowls like the ones pictured can be used with pigs, however we are found them to have their drawbacks. These type of water bowls have to be moved within a couple of inches of the ground to allow the pigs easily drink water from them. The downside of moving a water bowl close to the ground is that silt and muck build up inside them overtime. This is especially so when these bowls are used outside near soft ground and mud. If these bowls are allowed to become full of silt they will not work correctly, there is also the risk that the silt will replace the water, therefore making it easier to your pig to run out of water.

 

What type of piping do i need to use with my water feeders and troughs?

Depending on which watering system you use will determine which type of pipe will need. We usually use 18 mm alkathene pipe to feed water to the header tanks, and to the water feeders. This diameter and thickness of pipe is needed to cope with the mains water pressure.

When splitting the mains water pipe, ensure that you fit the stop tap on your new pipe. This pipe wants to be as close to the mains side as possible. The stop tap is to allow you to shut off the water when needed, or in times of emergency.

Water Stop tap and t-connecter

Mains water pipe intersected with a T-Connector. A stop tap is fitted (above the joint) close to the connector to allow the water to be cut of if needed

Your water pipes may need to be insulated, covered, or buried beneath the ground to prevent them freezing and bursting during the winter. It’s a good idea make sure the stop tap and you mains pipe are very well insulated as this is the side which could cause the most damage if it bursts.

With our own watering system we usually switch it off on the coldest days, therefore preventing any split pipes and damage when it freezes. During this time we usually revert to using the bucket and tyre method.

When using water pipes in a pig pen it is good practice to have the bare minimum amount of pipe exposed in their pen. Pigs will easily chew through plastic piping, therefore any piping they can reach ideally wants to be either metal or copper. Any bare pipe or metal pipes need to be fixed help prevent the pigs from lifting or bending the pipe.

If you have to run plastic pipe into your pig pen make sure it is covered or out of reach of your pet. Do not run plastic water pipe across the floor of the pig pen/yard/etc, you will be asking for trouble.

Header and Non Header Tank Water Systems

Their are two main water systems that can be used to provide an automatic water system. The only real difference is that one is used in conjunction with a header tank and the other is fed directly from the mains. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages which we will discuss.

Water butt and header tank

This is a homemade header tank – Simply a watertight barrel with an inlet valve fitted.

Water butt for hogs

Side view of our homemade header tank – mains water pipe would be connected onto the inlet valve protruding from the barrel at the right

 

Header Tank Water Systems

18mm plastic alkathene pipe is used to connect the mains water to the header tanks inlet valve. The level of water in the header tank is controlled by an inlet valve. Regulators will be needed to be fitted before the inlet valve to reduce the mains pressure in the system. An overflow pipe should also be fitted to the header tank, this overflow pipe should then be fed to a drain, or to a place where a large spillage will do no damage. Ensure that the header tank you are using has tap at the base to allow you to empty the tank, this will make things easier when you have to clean the tank. Alternatively you can use a smaller header tank like the one pictured below. A small tank like this can easily be picked up, moved, or emptied easily.

Small livestock water tank

Small header tank – this type of tank is small enough to be picked up and emptied. It makes cleaning the tank far easier.

The header tank is then connected to the pigs water feeder – this pipe will not be subjected to the same pressures that the mains water pipe is under, so a light duty pipe or hose can be used.

It is best idea to use a header tank which will not allow sunlight to enter it. Any header unit which allows sunlight into will accelerate algae growth inside of it. This means more cleaning out and sanitization of the water tank in the long run.

Any water tank will require cleaning from time to time. It’s a good idea to empty the tank every so often and remove any waste which is presence, and then scrub and disinfect it. We usually do this once to twice a year.  It’s also very important that you make sure any header tank is covered or sealed when in use. This is to prevent biological matter such as dead insects/leaves/etc from falling into the water. Over time this builds up of biological matter can contaminate the water and it is not healthy for your pig.

Personally I like using this type of watering system as its easy to add a dose of Apple cider vinegar to the pigs water. Also if for some reason our mains water gets cut of the pigs still have a supply which should last for a while.

This type of system doesn’t not have to be mains fed. You can feed water to the header tanks via a hose pipe or even have it collecting rain water. You could have a  a shed or building  feeding water to header tank via  guttering, drainpipes, etc.

Connecting Water Feeder Directly  To Mains Water Pipes (No Header Tank)

The photo below shows a slightly different water system. In this system there is no header tank, water is fed directly from the mains to the water feeder. It is critical that a water pressure reducer is  used on the water feeder end. If you do not fit water pressure reducer’s you run the risk of blowing the inlet valve in your inlet valve when you switch the water on, it might also not operate correctly.

Small water feeder for livestock

Water feeder with reducer pipe fitted (left side). The water reducer is needed to control mains water pressure and prevent damage and leakages in the bowl

As with the previous water system, it is essential that you fit a stop tap is close to the mains end as possible. This will allow you to switch off your watering system in times of emergency, or when the pipe bursts. The stop tap and ideally needs to be situated underground to prevent it from freezing during the winter.

The advantage of this system is that it is usually cleaner than a  header tank system. This is because gunk and muck do not build up due to the lack of a header tank. This system is also cheaper to build due as it can be built with just a little bit of piping, water feeder, and a T-splitter (shown in photo 3).

Conclusion

There are other types of waterer’s and watering systems available. I believe that ones mentioned in this guide are the most suitable for pet pig owners, smallholders, and hobby farmers.

All the plumbing bits like t-connectors, inlet valves, PTFE tape, etc, can be bought from your local plumbing merchant.

About the author

Joanne Rowe

Joanne and her family live on a 140 acre farm in Lancashire. Joanne's family have been in farming over 120 years - they breed a wide range animals including pigs, cows, sheep, and chickens.

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