The first few years that we raised pigs on our farm, our largest struggle was that of drinking water. We didn’t have any issues getting them to use a water nipple connected to a pressurized hose, the issue came from the rooting that occurred around the drinker. This required frequent relocation which was always a pain in the neck, and sometimes extremely laborious if the ground conditions were dry. Since most of our pigs are finished on the farm between May and November, dry ground is usually the rule and not the exception.
After years of frustration and testing different ideas and methods, I finally developed what we affectionately call the “piggy drinking deck”. This simple solution has since saved me countless hours, loads of frustration and mitigates large holes (wallows) appearing everywhere. I don’t mind the pigs having a good wallow, and in fact they need one! But they don’t need dozens of them which can ruin equipment and break the legs of both man and beast. Once new pigs on the farm figure out how the drinker works, it doesn’t take them long to make a wallow in short order. I’ve actually witnessed them holding the nipple valve “open” and intentionally not drinking, allowing the water to hit the ground, thereby enhancing said wallow construction.
The piggy drinking deck is very simply a 3′ x 3′ x 4″ platform with a diamond shaped hole cut in the center two boards. Materials include one (1) 2″x4″x12′ treated board cut into 3′ long sections and mitered for the base. Two (2) 10′ long, 5/4″ treated deck boards are then used to make a simple platform to stand on. We space the deck boards for water drainage. A t-post is driven through this hole using a 3lb. hammer and a double nipple drinker is then mounted to it using two adjustable pipe hose clamps. This allows the height of the nipple drinker to quickly be changed, based on the maturity size of the pigs. Water is supplied via a pressurized garden hose with a shut-off valve. This is routed and tied to a second t-post on the outside of the pig paddock, which keeps the hose up off the ground and away from the pigs. The nipple drinkers I have found are smaller than the garden hose and come with a male 1/2″ threaded connection. We simply buy a 4′ or 6′ washing machine supply hose and use it to connect between the shut-off valve and the drinker. Be certain to use double rubber washers on each end of the washer hose to avoid leaking. It’s not a perfect fit, but works just fine for pigs.
Pigs are a number of things, and one of their traits is a very high intelligence. Even if they have never been exposed to a nipple style drinker before, they are quick to learn. By simply hanging around the ole’ watering hole and waiting on them to come into the area, you can reach through the fence with a stick and actuate the waterer for them to drink. After doing this a few times over three or so days, one of the pigs will pick up on how to use the nipple drinker. Within another day, all of the other pigs will learn from him how to do the same thing. Plenty of fresh water is paramount for good animal health and performance. And after years of toiling with other ideas that didn’t work, this one tip will save you lots of time, frustration, poor performance and, in the end, money!