Water: The Most Important Nutrient for Newly Weaned Piglets


It’s a fact that water is the most important nutrient for all living beings… which is why water management is so incredibly important in a nursery with newly weaned piglets. At birth, water accounts for as much as 80% of a piglet’s body weight and declines to approximately 50% in a market weight pig (Water in Swine Nutrition, Kansas State University, 2019).

Many times, it is difficult to make sure newly weaned piglets look for water and take a drink when placed in the nursery. With the stress of leaving the farrowing unit, moving to a nursery facility with new surroundings, as well as being placed in a pen with others, dehydration is one of the greatest challenges facing those piglets.  

So how much water does a piglet need?

Growing pigs require about 2.6 liters of water per kilogram of feed intake, but in heat-stress conditions, the ratio can rise to as much as 3.5 times the feed intake (Patience, Iowa State University 2019). That’s why it’s critical for the pig farmer to provide adequate support and ensure those piglets get hydrated so they don’t experience any setbacks as they start to grow.

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What kind of support can be given?

First, there needs to be enough available drinker nipples with sufficient flow rates to ensure piglet access to fresh water and adequate hydration. As a general recommendation, the waterer-to-piglet ratio in a nursery is one waterer for every 10 to 15 piglets. Here, water flow rate becomes critical to make certain the piglets get enough water, but not so much water flow that a lot is wasted. The recommended flow rate is about 235mL to 475mL per minute with the ideal flow rate being 350mL per minute to get the correct balance between water intake and water disappearance/wastage (Brooks and Carpenter, 1990). 

Second, electrolytes as well as nutrient gels should be given to help keep pigs hydrated in the first weeks of post-weaning. Products that supply chloride, sodium, vitamins, magnesium, and pH acidifiers help keep the gut balanced, which keeps the pigs drinking and eating. 

Lastly, the impact of the type of feeder should be considered. Wet/Dry feeding is a great way to ensure newly wean pigs get hydrated and begin eating as soon as they arrive in the nursery. Placing a nipple in the feeder allows piglets to mix their own gruel feed, which increases both water and feed intake resulting in a healthier gut and better weight gain. Compared to a box-style dry feeder, a wet/dry feeder improves water and feed intake, resulting in an additional 1.5-3kg of weight gain during the nursery phase (Wastell, 2010) with over 35% less water disappearance/waste (Wastell, 2009).


Water is essential for life and plays a critical role in all aspects of a pig’s growth, especially for newly weaned piglets. Therefore, water delivery should be a priority focus for pig farmers—making sure their pigs have enough water without wasting this precious resource. There are many excellent ways to deliver fresh drinking water to pigs. Give it some thought, do your research, and good luck!


Want to know more about how our wet/dry feeders can help you improve production performance and water management? Contact our team at info@cshe.com, WhatsApp/Phone +1 (402) 227-8228 or visit our website at www.crystalspring.com to find your local authorized dealer and get detailed information about our product line.