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Step-by-step guide to improve your water quality

Step-by-step guide to improve your water quality

Drinking water quality


Checking and improving water quality on a farm is a very important management measure.Clean and fresh water is fundamental to successful animal production. In poultry, inadequate water intake may lead to reduced feed intake and growth rate. 

 The water should not only be clean and healthy for your animals to drink, it is also necessary to check your water quality before you start treating animals via drinking water. In this newsletter we will provide you with a step-by-step guide to improve your water quality.
Step 1: Storage of the water


Water should be stored in a clean opaque container. Opaque, to prevent sunlight from forming algae in the water container. The container should also be protected from direct sunlight. For example with a roof and/or by painting the container white to reflect sunlight in stead of absorbing it. This prevents the water from getting hot (image 1). Ideally, the water temperature is 20 degrees Celsius. Plenty and cool drinking water helps to overcome the negative effects of heat stress.

12067edb-5e6e-40b5-9171-68edb2e33ad9.jpgImage 1 - Correct storage of drinking water at a farm in Nigeria 

Step 2: Check the quality of your water at the source

The quality of drinking water can vary widely. Groundwater quality can differ depending on the depth and region from where it is extracted. Even tap water, which has to meet strict quality standards, can vary in quality from region to region.

 Therefore, it is important to check the water quality regularly. As a rule of thumb, the water source should be checked every 6 months. Take a sample of the water at your source and have it analysed in a laboratory. There they can measure nitrate, iron, lead and other chemical substances of the drinking water and determine if it is fit to drink for your animals.
Step 3: Drinking water distribution system

Drinking water systems can be opened or closed:
  • Open systems (bell or cup drinkers) are cheaper, but the chance of contamination and wet litter increases (image 2). When using an open system, daily cleaning is required. 
  • Closed watering systems with nipple drinkers are a better alternative (image 3). The tray below the nipple will catch the spilled water and prevents the litter from getting wet. A closed watering system also enables you to measure the drinking water intake from the animals every day. The drinking water system should be cleaned regularly by flushing the pipes. 
8567ffa8-d713-4341-a83a-dbfae0e3981f.jpgImage 2 - Bell drinker                            Image 3 - Nipple drinker

Prevent biofilm in closed drinking water systems
However closed water systems make it easier to keep contaminations out, a slimy layer can form in the pipelines. This is called biofilm and is a combination of micro organisms and medicinal residues that stick to the pipeline. Adding medicinal products to the drinking water may speed up the formation of biofilm, because of the sugars (carrier substance of medicinal product) that are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, fungi and yeasts. Regular flushing, cleaning and disinfection of the pipes is therefore essential. Especially after administration of medicinal products.
Step 4: Check the organic contamination of the drinking water

A biofilm or a poorly cleaned water system can cause organic contamination of the drinking water. Biofilm is a threat to the health of the animals:
  • Salmonella spp., Campylobacter, E. coli and Enterococci can survive and multiply in the biofilm. The drinking water therefore continuously transmits large quantities of bacteria to the animals.
  • Under certain conditions (e.g. pH higher than 7.2) there may be large growths of mould and the animals therefore absorb large amounts of mycotoxins.
  • The biofilm in the pipes can reduce the effectiveness of drinking water vaccines, causing a vaccination or medication to be inadequate or insufficient.
  • Additions to drinking water (e.g. vaccines, skimmed milk with the vaccination, antibiotics, vitamins, dewormers, acids) also contain substances that promote the genesis of the biofilm and the growth of bacteria and fungi.
  • The biofilm can also clog up the tubes and drinking nipples, hindering the flow of water.
Besides cleaning, it is recommended to measure the organic contamination of the drinking water regularly (every 6 months at the source and every month at the end of the water line where the animals drink). Read more about testing organic contamination by clicking on this link. 

Step 5: Check the hardness of the water

Water hardness is a measure of the concentration of metal ions – mostly magnesium and calcium carbonate, but also bicarbonates and sulphates – in the water. The hardness of the water can be measured with a drop testRead more about this on our website. The water hardness of a water source barely changes, so once you know the hardness level you do not have to measure again often.

With very hard water, a biofilm is formed in the pipes much earlier on, which can cause bacterial contamination levels to soar. If you are struggling with very hard water on the farm, it is recommended to use systems to soften the drinking water.

If the water hardness is high, additional measures need to be taken before you can start any treatment with antibiotics in drinking water. This is because complexes (connections between antibiotics and metals) can be formed with the antibiotics which causes they cannot be absorbed in the body.

This is particularly the case with doxycycline, oxytetracycline and flumequine. To prevent antibiotics from forming complexes with metals (calcium), Citric Acid should be added to the drinking water. The Citric Acid will form complexes with the metals. This ensures that the antibiotics will not form complexes and can be absorbed in the body. 

 Citric Acid can be used to acidify drinking water before treatment with Doxyvet 200/500/750 wsp or Oxy 200/500 wsp. Table 4 below states the right dosage of Citric Acid depending on the medicine you use and the hardness of the water. 9e49971b-29cd-465a-a83d-84582940a169.jpgTable 4 - Dosage of Citric Acid depending on added product and water hardness

Step 6: Acidifying drinking water to improve gut health

Acidifying drinking water is not only useful when treating your animals. It can also help to improve gut health. Keprofix Oral is a useful product when you want to improve the gut health of chickens. Keprofix Oral is meant for preventive use. It is an effective alternative for antibiotic growth promotors. It can help:
  • Improve animals performance:
    • Decreasing pressure on the animals immune system so more nutrients are available for production
    • Low pH in upper digestive system may improve protein digestibility
  • Reduce scale and biofilm build up in the water system
  • Keprofix Oral contains clove oil which:
    • Reduces bacteria populations in the water/feed system and in the animals to prevent disease 
    • Supports gut health
When you want to acidify the drinking water to ensure effective treatment with...

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