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Optimising water medication

By Dr Annie Labuscagne, CSVet
Water medication is a viable option to medicate a group of pigs. It gives flexibility to the producer, especially if the crisis is now and the feed tank was filled late yesterday. Another advantage is that sick pigs tend to drink water after they have stopped eating; your chances of medicating those that really need it is therefore better.
If less than ten percent of pigs are affected, water medication is not the answer. Rather inject those in need of treatment. Treating animals that do not need it only enhances antibiotic resistance.
Before medicating via the water, you must keep the following in mind:

  • How clean are your pipes? If the medication contains sugars or acids, deposits can form, which will block the pipes.
  • If you do not have a dosatron and you are adding the medication to your water tank, you must keep the size of the water tank in mind. If the tank is small, you might have to add medication more than once.
  • Medication must be available for six to eight hours to give every pig chance to consume enough medicated water.
  • You cannot use water medication if water supply does not branch from your main line to different age groups/buildings, or if you do not have a separate water tank/building. It will be too expensive (you will be treating the entire farm!) and you will treat animals that do not need it.
  • If there are many water leaks or if it is a hot day (when the pigs are playing with the water), you should use 10 to 20% extra medication to compensate for wastage.
  • Is your dosatron working? Make sure that there are no air blocks. Dosatrons should also be serviced annually.

How much?
How much antibiotics must you use?

  • Calculate the total live weight to be medicated.
  • Calculate the g of medication to be added.
  • Work out how much water the pigs will consume per day. They usually drink eight percent of body weight per day.
  • Set dosatron on one percent.
  • It is usually best to run a dosatron during the day when somebody can make sure that it is working.

Weaner pigs with Glӓssers. The pigs are eight weeks old.

  • 500 pigs at 20kg/pig = 10 000 kg total live weight to be treated
  • Medication: Amoxycillin. Dosage for Amoxycillin is 10 – 15mg/kg and it is decided to treat at 10mg/kg.
  • Amount required: 10 000 x 0.01 = 100g of Amoxycillin
  • To calculate the group’s daily water consumption: 20 x 8% x 500 = 800 litre
  • If you decide to medicate over six hours, the pigs will drink 34ℓ/hour, therefore 204l over six hours. Set the dosatron at 1%, mix the Amoxycillin with 2.5 litre of water.
    • Check at least four times during the six hours that the level of antibiotics is dropping!
  • Also, keep in mind that some of the medications precipitate out. It is therefore necessary to stir the medication often.

Well managed water medication is a excellent tool, but if not managed properly it can do more harm than good.

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