It cannot be stressed enough that gamebirds need a clean, hygienic supply of water.
With much expected of today’s game farmers and keepers, such as controlling budgets and assessing the quality and price of game feed; not to mention recovery from the impact of Coronavirus last season – water can often be an overlooked nutrient. Yet we should not forget that all animals, including us humans, can survive longer without food than water.
H2O is the lifeblood of any gamebird enterprise – it is key to productivity, body temperature and food digestion.
Following an unseasonably cool April in 2021, things for late May and beyond are looking a little better – and the warmer the weather gets, the more essential water becomes.
According to the Game Farmers Guide written by the GFA, is that likely consumption per 100 birds, per day, in litres is:
Clean drinking water key to performance
Shortfalls in the quality of drinking water for gamebirds can lead to a poor performance and a possibility of an over-reliance on antibiotics – the very thing the industry is striving to reduce. And the notion that mains-supplied H2O must be good for gamebirds come-what-may is true only to a point (mains can become contaminated like any other).
The initial quality is not the issue; problems tend to stem from the lines that supply the drinkers. According to Stephen Bowen, technical poultry specialist with Potters Poultry, in Farmers Weekly, Water sitting in pipes in warm sheds offers an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, algae and other microorganisms. Also, some water tanks are high up in the shed or bird area, raising temperatures further.
This highlights the importance of ensuring the liquid is free-flowing: this requires lines to be flushed and cleaned regularly; and demonstrates the need to keep pipes and tanks as cool as possible.
The nature of gamebirds being free to roam outdoors can also increase the risk posed to the birds through contamination. When roaming, birds often peck faeces and mud and then return to the drinkers. This highlights why drinkers should be regularly inspected and cleaned.
Sources, systems and solutions
There are several water sources that can used – mains being the most obvious. Mains holds many advantages, for example it will already have been filtered, tested and treated before it comes out of the tap; which immediately lowers the risk of microorganisms and other pollutants being present.
Another option is a borehole. However, this carries an increased risk of contamination compared with mains, especially if the borehole is shallow. The types of bacteria that have been found in boreholes include E.Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter – there is also the associated risk of Avian Influenza.
Choosing the appropriate drinkers is another vital consideration: they must achieve ease of access, cleanliness, minimal spillage and the ability to cater for the birds needs as they grow.
Many modern floor drinkers have a raised platform with collecting trays underneath, meaning the birds won’t be drinking dirty water from wet puddles. However, this doesn’t avoid the issue of droppings in the area, or contamination from aerial dust. Nipple systems are generally considered to be more hygienic, but if it weeps puddles of dirty water will develop – and it is crucial that it is the right height for the birds. Hanging bell drinkers are another option, but even these require daily cleaning.
Investing in a sanitising system can be extremely cost-effective. It is exceptionally safe and does not affect colour, taste or odour. But, be sure to read the instructions!
Acidification of Water
With birds consuming nearly twice as much H2O as feed under normal conditions, the hygiene and quality cannot be overlooked. But there are certain aspects of water – namely the pH level – that are also important to concentrate on.
According to the St David’s Poultry Team, the pH of water can influence taste and potential bacteria burdens in water for game birds – Pathogenic bacteria prefer alkaline environments, whilst ‘good’ bacteria prefer acidic conditions”. Additionally, water with a high pH can affect the impact of antibiotics and vaccines! It should be noted also that water that is too acidic will be unpalatable and may damage equipment.
One option that can help increase palatability and gut health of the birds is adding organic acids.
Organic acids help to reduce the pH of water. If using organic acids with a water sanitiser like chlorine, then the optimum pH is 5.5. However, if using the acids alone then the pH should be dropped to 3.8-4.2 – which will eliminate bacteria from the water.
As we’ve mentioned, birds to prefer acidic water, but if the water is too acidic – around 3.5 – then this could lead to damage being done to the birds guy lining.
The Need for Quality…
Clean, hygienic drinking water for gamebirds at all stages of development is essential.
A lack of quality drinking water can lead to poor performance, an increase in the use of antibiotics, and will ultimately lower the standard and enjoyment of the shoot. It can also impact on us as game feed manufacturers, with many people blaming feed for issues that are often caused by poor quality drinking water. The bottom line is – If you wouldn’t drink it, then neither should your birds!