Brooding - Water management

by ANDREW BOURNE, broiler specialist – World Technical Support, Cobb-Vantress

The following is the fourth of our five essentials series of articles. All five brooding essentials are equally weighted in their importance.

Clean water — the adage ‘if the grower cannot drink the water, the chicks should not’ holds true. Water access is equally important, but with a modern nipple drinker system this is easily achieved.

A broiler chick’s water intake is always balanced with its excretion. Young chicks will consume more than they excrete due to the demands of growth. Water is 70% of the chick weight. Anything that negatively affects water intake will adversely affect feed consumption. At placement chicks will consume 1ml/bird/hour for the first 24 hours on the farm. Recent research, (Compensatory Water Consumption of Broilers Submitted to Water Restriction from 1 to 21 Days of Age: Viola TH; Ribeiro AML & Penz Jr. AM 2005); found that water restriction leads to changes in drinking and feeding behaviors of chickens. Restricting water intake ultimately reduces growth.

The first water consumed by the chick must be clean. Always implement a water line sanitation program during house cleanout and flush the lines just before to placement. Regular water sanitation and water line cleaning can provide protection against microbial contamination and bio-fi lm build-up. Once established in water lines, bio-films provide a place for detrimental bacteria and viruses to hide from disinfectants. The following are some important management procedures that need to be implemented:

  • Test water quality annually at source for both mineral and bacterial counts.
  • Clean and flush all drinking systems between flocks. Products containing 50 percent hydrogen peroxide, stabilised with silver nitrate, have proven to be outstanding for removing bio-films in water lines.
  • Maintain a clean drinking system during production. Flush water lines three times per week at 1.5 - 3.0 bars pressure. 1 minute per 30m of nipple line.
  • Maintain clean water. If using chlorine, a minimum of 3 - 5ppm should be available at the last nipple in each drinker line.

Drinking equipment installation and management is just as important as the supply of clean water. The following are some important installation specifications:

  • The correct number of birds per nipple:
  • Maximum of 12 birds/nipple for high fl ow rate systems (90ml/min)
  • Maximum of 10 birds/nipple for low fl ow rate systems (50 ml/min)
  • Maintain correct drinking system height-easy access/reduce wastage

Water temperature is an important factor affecting consumption. Water storage tanks and header tanks tend to be at a similar temperature as the environment. In hot climates water consumption will be signifi cantly reduced as the water temperature increases. Research by Beker & Teeter (1994) found the ideal water temperature for broilers to be approximately 10˚C (50˚F). Water temperatures above 27˚C (81˚F) will lead to signifi cant reductions in water consumption and daily weight gains.

Careful consideration of the five essentials driving early feed consumption and growth will ensure the grower captures the maximum potential of the least cost advantage provided by the Cobb500.


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