Chicken Care with Water Supplements: What You Need to Keep in Mind.

Published on: July 1, 2021
Author: Biochem Team
Time: 7 min read

Water is indisputably the most relevant feed for successful poultry production. Its quality needs to be high to assure the wellbeing and high performance of our animals. Industrial farming aims at being efficient and sustainable while meeting the exacting needs of modern breeds. The application of water-soluble supplements via the drinking water is a fast and flexible tool in supporting these needs, especially during periods of intense growth or in stress situations. With the choice of suitable supplements and correct administration, positive effects on gut health and immunity can be achieved. For successful water application, there are some things you need to keep in mind.

From the first drop of water…

The watering system is designed to provide fresh, clean water. It is also a great tool in administering veterinary treatments, such as vaccines or necessary medications. The application of dietary feed supplements via water can also be advantageous:

  1. in phases of increased demand. During intense growth periods of modern breeds, the demand for certain nutrients, such as minerals and vitamins for bone strength, may not be covered by feed alone. This gap in provision can be closed by adequate water supplementation.

  2. in phases of reduced feed intake. During illness or stress the feed intake may quickly become reduced, while the water consumption remains steady or even increases. Sick animals will stop feeding first while water intake remains unchanged.

  3. in phases of challenge situations. During recuperation or as supportive measures.

General criteria for water application.

Administering dietary supplements via drinking water is thus becoming more relevant. While it is already common practice for poultry livestock, it is gaining importance also for swine and cattle. Substances such as medication, prescribed by a veterinarian, are by far not the only ones applied via water. A wide range of nutritive additives is available for water application. This bears a range of benefits:

  1. The use of additives in the water allows for full control over their use through the farm manager. The type, dosage and duration can be adjusted to best meet the requirements of the animals.

  2. The application takes place quickly and the additives are available to the animals almost immediately. Supplementation via feed takes longer: it must first be ordered at the feed mill, manufactured and delivered. This time cannot always be afforded.

  3. When sick, animals may still be medicated and supplied via the drinking water

Preparations, contents and formulations.

A variety of dosage forms is available on the market for water application, ranging from effervescent tablets to highly concentrated liquids. The most commonly used forms are liquids and water-soluble powders. Products of high quality should not leave any residue, oily films or sediments in the watering system.

Suitable are all ingredients that are water-soluble or can be transferred into such a form, for example through the emulsification of fats and oils. The spectrum ranges from essential nutrients such as vitamins and trace elements, to electrolytes, amino acids, essential oils and specialties like pro- and prebiotics.

For a wide range of indications.

The options for combining active ingredients are numerous and allow for a targeted support for the different phases of poultry farming. In recent times the use of supplements is gaining importance in regards to the necessity of antibiotic reduction and governmental monitoring programs. Veterinarians and animal nutritionists are working together closely for product development. With appropriate use, the nutritional benefits of these combinations might be able to reduce the frequency of antibiotic treatment by positively affecting digestive functions or preventing malnourishment.

The line-up of Biochem products for water application covers a wide range of indications. We offer products containing smart combinations of ingredients, each designed to best meet the needs of your animals, in all phases of life. Through constant research and testing we keep our products optimized according to newest developments in science and genetic advancement of the different breeds.

With state-of-the-art production processes and high standards of quality management, Biochem products are delivered in a consistently high quality and are available as liquids or water-soluble powders.

Crucial: water hygiene.

Even though the drinking water application has a variety of advantages, there are also some things that need to be considered to keep this application method safe and efficient:

A good watering system needs to be well thought through.

The physical parameters of any watering system are decisive for the continuous supply with fresh water. Is the pipe diameter adequate for the water volumes that need to pass per minute, even in times of maximum water consumption? Or can the system not accommodate the high flow rate, so that drinkers at the end of the line run dry? Does the water stagnate or is a constant circulation possible? Other construction mistakes such as dead ends (great brooding ground for biofilm and pathogens!) should by any means be avoided. The material and condition of surface areas in water systems should be monitored regularly.

Dosing devices need to be invested in.

Just as there are different types of watering systems there are also several different methods of applying substances via drinking water. The most commonly used and efficient method is the use of a proportional dosing pump. These pumps are installed directly into the water supply line and are operated either electronically or by water pressure. They inject an adjustable percentage of a concentrated, liquid substance into the water.

A correct dosage calculation is crucial for successful supplementation. Underdosing supplements may lead to ineffectiveness, while some products, especially some vitamins and trace elements, have toxic effects when overdosed.

Frequency and quality of supplements influence the risk of biofilm development.

In a lot of watering systems, biofilm is a serious issue. Biofilm is a complex cohabitation of different microorganisms, extracellular polymeric substances and inorganic material.

One of the physical effects of massive biofilm is a reduced pipe diameter and therefore reduced water flow rates. Pieces of biofilm can detach and block nipple drinkers, also leading to a deficient supply of the animals.

Another, even more important aspect of biofilm is its ability to contaminate drinking water. It serves as a reservoir for harmful bacteria such as Campylobacter, E. coli, Klebsiella and others. Due to its special structure the contained microorganisms are mostly unharmed by antibiotics, acids and even disinfectants. Furthermore, antibiotics applied via the water may get embedded into the matrix of biofilm, promoting antibiotic resistance in the present bacteria, causing potential residues in carcasses, and impeding successful vaccination or probiotic treatments.

How does biofilm develop.

The development and the composition of biofilm is strongly dependent on:

  • temperature

  • pH-value

  • nutrient supply

  • hydrodynamic parameters (stagnation, pressure, turbulence)

  • quality and condition of pipes

Especially in warmer climates, biofilm is fostered by increased water temperatures. Since this factor can rarely be influenced, the control of other beneficial factors is even more crucial. The pH-value can be controlled more easily with the addition of acidifiers that make the survival of bacteria more difficult.

The nutrient supply in the pipes largely depends on the water quality and on added supplements. Biofilm is able to utilize lubricants from new pipes and plasticizers as nutrients. The amount of Ca2+ and Fe2+ ions also play an important role as they can be either metabolized by certain bacteria or are used in inorganic structures for attachment. Nutrients, minerals, and probiotics that are supplemented to benefit the animals unfortunately also benefit the microorganisms in biofilm as well. This makes a good hygiene management even more important.

The interaction of hydrodynamic characteristics of your watering system and its quality, condition and construction also has an influence on biofilm. Higher pressure and constant flow are better at preventing biofilm than stagnating water, dry lines and dead ends. Stainless steel pipes are less susceptible than plastic, while older plastic components may get porous or cracked and provide a rougher surface that is more prone to attachment of biofilm.

Cleaning is better than disinfecting.

After each fattening period, the water system should be cleaned and disinfected with the same thoroughness than the rest of the house. The choice of cleaning agent should be adequate to eliminate all biofilm which might have built up during the previous grow-out period. After each water application of feed supplements, flushing the lines with clean water will help to remove possible residues. The regular use of acidifiers to lower the pH of the drinking water is already common practice. It prevents the growth of most pathogens, and the use of organic acids have a nutritional benefit for the animal.

…to the last drop.

While we can summarize that the water application of nutritive supplements bears a broad range of benefits, we need to keep a multitude of factors in mind to provide the safest and highest quality of drinking water to our poultry. This starts with the first drop of water until we prepare the house anew for the next grow-out.

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