Research finds organic acids increase water intake in gestating sows and may benefit piglet viability

15 May 2018

Research findings shared at European Symposium of Porcine Health Management

15 May 2018, Barcelona, Spain

A study conducted by Trouw Nutrition's Swine Research Centre reveals that gestating sows receiving a drinking water additive had significantly higher water intake compared to a control group. The additive is composed of free and buffered organic acids and was tested during the last four weeks of gestation. The study findings support earlier research showing an association between higher water intake and key metrics of piglet viability including higher birth and litter weight. Trouw Nutrition shared the findings during a poster presentation at the European Symposium of Porcine Health Management, 9-11 May in Barcelona.

The study shows that sows' water intake varies widely throughout the gestation period (Figure 1). To gain insight into the relationship between gestating sows' water intake and key measures of piglet viability such as higher birth weight, Trouw Nutrition researchers conducted a study that compared intake among sows receiving a drinking water additive (Selko-pH) and a control group (Table 1).

Figure 1- Variation in individual water intake of gestating sows.

Table 1- Effect of Selko-pH during gestation on litter weight and birth weight of the offspring.



Selko-pH 0.1%


35 37  
Water intake L/d 5.1 ± 1.6 17.6 ± 1.6 < 0.01
Litter weight at birth, kg* 21.4 ± 0.4 22.2 ± 0.4 0.20
Birth weight piglets, g* 1350 ± 30 1410 ± 30 0.18
*corrected for litter size      


In the mixed parity study, gestating sows received Selko-pH at 1L/1000 L from day 80 of gestation through farrowing. A control group received normal drinking water, which was quality assurance tested. The Trouw Nutrition Swine Research Center allows to measure individual water intake using specially developed equipment. Water intake levels showed a significant increase among the sows receiving Selko-pH compared to sows in the control group (Table 1). More than 50% of the sows receiving Selko-pH had water intake levels above 11.6L per day. In contrast, 50% of the sows in the control group drank less than 4.3 L per day; an amount below recommended levels (Figure 2).

Figure 2- Effect of adding Selko-pH on water intake in gestation.

Due to the large variance in water intake among gestating sows in the study, researchers classified water intake across three levels: low (less than 3.3 L/d), medium (3.3-15.7 L/d) and high (more than 15.7 L/d). The sows in the high intake category had the highest litter and piglet birth weights.
Expanding on the research findings, Dr. Juan Antonio Mesonero Escuredo, Global Programme Manager for Swine Gut Health at Trouw Nutrition, noted increased water intake is associated with positive effects beyond gestation. For example, looking at the effect of water intake on lactation, overall feed intake was increased 600 grams per day in the second week of lactation, and 300 grams per day in the third week of the lactation period. "A common problem after lactation is the body weight loss of the sows, which can be prevented with higher feed intake during lactation. This study was done in optimal research farm conditions, where body weight loss is minimal and we still saw good results. In commercial field conditions this can turn into great results for the producer," the programme manager said. "Furthermore, increasing feed and water intake during lactation is beneficial to the sow, helping her with a better return to oestrus", he said. Additionally, higher water intake during gestation can reduce constipation and ease the partus process. "Increased water intake during gestation and lactation can also decrease the risk of urinary tract infections in sows" Dr. Mesonero Escuredo stated.
The scientific poster "Effect of water intake in sows" was presented by Trouw Nutrition at the European Symposium of Porcine Health Management. As part of an integrated approach to improving animal health and performance through feed, farm and health strategies, Trouw Nutrition continues to invest in research that advances animal performance.