Growing pigs' drinking behaviour: number of visits, duration, water intake and diurnal variation
Individual drinking patterns are a potential tool for disease monitoring in pigs. However, to date, individual pig drinking behaviour has not been described, and effects of external factors have not been examined. The aim of this study was to perform detailed quantification of drinking behaviour of growing pigs and to examine effects of period of day and effects of competition for access to the drinking nipple on the drinking behaviour, amount of water used and water wastage. In all, 52
... In all, 52 cross-bred castrated male pigs (live weight 20.5±1.7 kg; mean±s.d.) maintained as either 3 (N3) or 10 (N10) pigs per pen and water nipple (four groups/treatment) were used. All pigs were fitted with a transponder ear tag. A radio frequency identification reader recorded and time stamped visits at the nipple. In each pen, water flow was logged every second. The drinking behaviour was recorded for 4 consecutive days and analysed using a linear mixed model. Overall, the pigs spent 594 s at the nipple during 24 h distributed among 44 visits. During this period, 5 l of water were used, of which >30% was wasted. Social competition did not affect the drinking behaviour over 24 h, except for the proportion of interrupted visits where pigs, kept with recommended nipple availability (N10), showed an increased proportion of interrupted drinking bouts compared with pigs kept at very low level of competition (N3) (0.18±0.01v. 0.11±0.01;P<0.01). However, splitting data into 8-h periods (P1, P2, P3) starting from 0600 h revealed differences between treatments, showing that in N3, water use per visit was lower in P1 than P2 and P3 (110±10v. 126±7 and 132±7 ml;P<0.05), whereas in N10, the water used per visit was higher during P3 than during the other periods (P1: 107±14 ml, P2: 112±10 mlv. P3: 151±10 ml;P<0.001). A similar pattern was found for visit duration. In N3, fewer nipple visits were observed in P2 than P1 (15.6±1.2v. 22.0±1.2;P<0.001), whereas no difference was found between P1 and P2 in N10. The results demonstrate that growing pigs at the two levels of competition maintained a comparable level of 24 h water intake by changing behavioural variables involved in drinking. This dynamic characteristic of drinking behaviour means that if individual drinking patterns are to be used as disease monitoring tools, it is important to consider effects of external factors and include data on period level to allow rapid detection of behavioural changes.