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Lene Juul Pedersen

Drinking behaviour in sows kept outdoors during the winter months

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tIn the light of the EU regulation, “pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantityof fresh water” and the practical problems it provides farmers during winter to keep waterfree of ice, the aim of this study was to investigate the influence of periods with frost onthe diurnal pattern of water intake in sows kept outdoors with free access to water. Thestudy was performed on an organic pig herd with outdoor sows. Twenty-four Danish Lan-drace × Yorkshire sows of different parity (mean: 4.5 ± 2.8) housed in individual farrowingpaddocks with free access to water provided by a frost-proof drinking bowl were used. Theindividual sow’s water intake from the drinking bowl was measured continuously fromsix days before farrowing until weaning at seven weeks after farrowing. Temperature ofsupplied water to each drinking bowl, air temperature and rainfall was measured contin-uously. Numbers of born alive, stillborn and weaned piglets were recorded. The recordingperiod was divided into two temperature categories; control days (CD) with daily averageair temperature at or above 0◦C and frosty days (FD) with daily average air temperaturebelow 0◦C. The FD included data from 22 days representing 11 sows, while the remainingobservations were defined as CD. Average water uptake from six days before farrowinguntil four weeks after farrowing was higher on FD than CD (28.9 ± 0.8 vs. 23.1 ± 1.8 l/day,P < 0.001). Across periods, a clear circadian rhythm was found with 70–75% of the waterintake taking place between 8.00 and 20.00 h. The extra water uptake on FD compared toCD was recorded between 8.00 and 16.00 h (P < 0.05). Water intake did not differ at nightin the period from 20.00 to 8.00 h (6.42 l vs. 6.44 l, respectively for FD and CD). There wasno difference between FD and CD in number of visits to the drinking bowl during night(2.1 ± 0.56 and 1.9 ± 0.24 visits/night for FD and CD, respectively). We found higher waterintake during frosty days and no difference in water consumption at night between daysof frosty and normal weather, which indicates that pigs are motivated to drink even whenthe weather is cold. However, many farms may not have frost-proof water dispensers, andice formation could prevent pigs from drinking at night. Thus further work is needed toinvestigate if sows, during the day, are able to compensate for a lack of uptake of water at night in case of a frozen water resource.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Pages (from-to)34-41
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

    Research areas

  • temperature, water consumption, diurnal pattern, circadian rythm, lactating sows, outdoor sows

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