Skip to main content

'Clean water pipes regularly'

The drinking water quality for livestock is below average on many farms. Livestock farmers must on average pay more attention to this by cleaning pipes and checking water quality themselves or having samples examined. That pays off because it leads to better animal performance, says Joost Straathof. Cattle farmers, who took action, confirm his story.

Dairy, pig and poultry farmers are in complete agreement: drinking water quality for their animals is very important. Yet many companies do not pay structural attention to this. “Livestock farmers must on average pay more attention to water quality for their animals. Insufficient water quality can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, taste abnormalities, interactions with drinking water additives and disappointing growth” says Joost Straathof, the owner of JS Water.

The experienced water specialist always works according to a fixed pattern. First, he takes a critical look at the main supply and then he takes water samples there. “This is usually fine with tap water. But things can go wrong there with water from our own source. Groundwater can, for example, contain too high an iron or manganese content, because the iron removal installation no longer functions properly. That is why it is useful to have a lab study carried out every six months, but also to assess the water yourself in the meantime on odour, colour and taste.” The water specialist then looks at how the system has been installed. “Water should stand still in pipes as little as possible because then a so-called biofilm can form. This occurs when bacteria grow on dirt particles that stick to the wall of the pipe. Harmful bacteria such as coli can grow on a biofilm and livestock can be affected by this."

There must be no subsidence in the water circuit where dirt deposits form. That is why pipes must be laid as straight as possible. Pipes should also not be too thick. With pipes that are too thick, the flow is too slow, which increases the chance of a biofilm developing. According to Straathof, livestock farmers are best off opting for PVC pipes. "Galvanized pipe will corrode and certain types of Tylene hoses are porous, which increases the chance of a biofilm."


Straathof strongly discourages the use of communicating barrels - which you see a lot in cattle barns from the 1970s and 1980s. “In the communicating vessels, there is a float in one trough and water flows from one drinking trough for the cows through the pipes in the other. This quickly pollutes the pipes and newly supplied water. Every drinking trough for the cows must have its own float.”

In addition to the water circuit, he also checks the availability of water. “Float tanks must provide enough water so that all cows can drink enough. Otherwise, there is a good chance that milk production will also be lower than feasible. The same goes for pigs and poultry. If the nipples are clogged and fattening pigs are unable to drink or drink too little, feed intake is also quickly lower and growth slows.

Straathof also looks at how to deal with dosing devices. These are widely used in pig and poultry farming. Finally, the water specialist checks the cleanability. "Can the system be flushed properly?" He also asks how often the farmer cleans the system. Many broiler farmers receive new chicks every seven weeks and clean their drinking water system after each round. This already provides some certainty. “In other sectors, the focus on cleaning is often weakened due to lack of time. But just put on the calendar that you have to clean your water system every month and then do this” advises Straathof. To check that the cleaning went well, he recommends checking the water quality monthly by draining water from the system into a white bucket. "If the water is not clear, then the quality is not good either."

He also advises to have water samples examined monthly. “Microbiological research costs 35 or 40 euros per sample. Poor water quality quickly deteriorates animal performance. Investing in water quality pays off.”

To salmonella status 1

Broiler farmer Paul Grefte from Hengevelde (OV) has been using a Watter machine since 2011. Before that, the water quality was good. Only he had lost 7,000 euros in hydrogen peroxide acetic acid annually. “The main reason for choosing Watter was cost savings. The machine cost 22,000 euros. But it is earned back after a few years, because I no longer have to buy hydrogen peroxide acetic acid.”

Grefte mixes one and a half percent Watter water through the drinking water three times per round of broilers. He also rinses the pipes with the Watter water after the round. He also disinfects the floors of his stables every other round with Watter. "We disinfect one round with Watter, the next round with formalin."

Sow farmer Herrald Klaassen from Coevorden (DR) has now been working with Watter for almost a year and a half. That works well. “I used to use all kinds of substances such as chlorine dioxide acetic acid. That helped for a moment. But a few weeks later the water quality was already much less. Now the water quality is structurally good. ” Klaassen no longer suffers from clogged drinking nipples and fewer problems with salmonella. "Our pigs used to have the highest salmonella status 3. Now they are in status 1. Not only the piglets that we fatten ourselves, but also the piglets that go to other fattening pig farmers in Germany." Klaassen also feels that his sows are healthier.

Sow farmer Gert Altena from Hoogenweg (OV) has been working with Watter for over two years. He had acid-loving yeasts in the water pipes and he couldn't get them out with hydrogen peroxide acetic acid. “Those yeasts got in because we add acid to the water. In addition, the water on our farm stands still a lot and it is 30 degrees Celsius in piglet sections. This increases the chance of pollution, so that coli can multiply well in the pipes." Now he no longer has those problems. “Moreover, I no longer have to use expensive acids to keep the intestinal system healthy. I am very satisfied because our water is now one hundred percent clean. This is also evident from the germ counts.” He mixes 1.5 to 2 percent of the product with the water. If his piglets have diarrhea, they get one hundred percent from the storage vessel. "That works well."

Pipes clean again

Fattening pig farmer Marijke Folkers from Veendam (GR) has been using Watter for two years now. “We have transparent pipes and can now see that the pipes are clean again. They used to be black from the biofilm before.” His pigs receive water from their own groundwater installation. As a participant in the Beter Leven fattening pig concept, Folkers must check the drinking water quality four times a year. Since using Watter, the values are always good. This was not always the case in the past.

Dairy farmer Gerben Koskamp from Vlagtwedde (GR) now has less problems with udder infections. “Our cows also recover faster after an illness, because they have more resistance. I have the impression that the Watter system makes a positive contribution to this.” Water research shows that the bacterial count is clearly less. Furthermore, the water appears optically cleaner. “We are now running better technically. But that is not only due to Watter. We have started doing more things differently.”