By Kieron Daniels, Broiler Technical Services Manager – Aviagen

Water is the often described as “the forgotten nutrient”. It is the most plentiful fluid within the bird’s body, essential for digestion and for moving feed from the crop through the gut.

Sometimes we can get complacent about it being there, so it’s always worth reviewing you water regularly.

When I am reviewing water on farm, I like to think we can sum up a farm’s broiler water system management by asking three questions:

Is my water clean at the source?

This is easy enough to answer. Head to your water source on the farm, take some samples to test the levels of microbial activity and minerals within the water.

For testing, submit a water sample to a lab near you for full TVC and mineral analysis, do this at least once a year

You can also use on-farm tools such as a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter, they are relatively cheap and can tell you how much organic matter may be in your water.

So you can check it routinely through the crop. You want this number as low as possible, the higher the number, the more likely you have biofilm in your line.

The Ideal TDS measurement for Human drinking water is below 350 TDS.

I think we should always aim for the birds to drink the same water we would.

Don’t take this measurement when you are actually dosing your line as it will cause it to spike.

If we are happy with the result, we can move on. If not, we can look at filters, disinfection or something like an ion exchange.

Is my water system clean?

Take the exact same tests again, but this time, at the end of the waterline in your last house that your water feeds into.

Compare your results to those from your source and you’ll be able to see how clean your water system is.

Anything over what you got from your source you can assume has come from your pipework.

If you water is clean at the source but becomes worse at the end of the line, we know we need to review our continual and turnaround disinfection.

If it is roughly the same at the source and at the end of the line, then we know we are giving the birds good quality drinking water.

How to make sure my water intake is optimal?

This question is a little harder and we could go into much greater depth.

But for this article, I want to focus on ensuring the water is uniform and primed for the birds to drink as they require.

This starts before the birds arrive at the farm. We must make sure our waterlines are at a uniform height to the floor, not the litter.

If we set the height of the lines to the litter, we will get peaks and troughs in the line that could lead to air pockets in the system.

The bare cement floor is your level. That way we can set the lines to the right height to get a good neck stretch on the birds, with minimal back usage and no birds going on to their toes to drink.

Once at a uniform height, we should then zero our water regulators. We do that by removing all the pressure from the regulator and then bleed out the remaining water in the sight glass by draining the nipples nearest to the regulator.

This will bring our red ball in the sight glass to the bottom of the regulator. We can then set our regulator to the correct pressure.

For broilers, a very rough guide to follow is to start with 20ml per 30 seconds at the end of the line, where a majority of the birds are drinking, and add 1ml per day until you get to about 45-50ml per 30 seconds.

The bird really does not need much more water than this at any time. This usually equates to about a quarter to a half a turn per week.  

Clean water at source + clean water system + optimal water intake = happy, healthy birds.