Cleaning Water Lines, it’s more important – and easier – than you think, By Stuart Heller from Neogen


Believe it or not, as pork producers, a big part of your business is water. If you don’t believe it, think of it like this; a newborn piglet contains about 82% water. Pork products on the supermarket shelves contain about 51% water. Manure is over 90% water. Or as my good friend (and water expert) Jesse McCoy says; “water accounts for over 50% of your income.”

Add to this the fact that pigs drink at least 2x more than they eat, and you have to ask yourself…why aren’t we paying more attention to the water lines that are carrying this most important nutrient to our pigs?

As someone with over thirty-five years of experience in the pork production industry, I believe the answer can be summed up in three words; “Convenience equals compliance.” Make a process simple and convenient and the chances of it getting done are pretty good. Make something difficult and time consuming and the chances of it getting done are greatly reduced. And currently, cleaning water lines falls into the “difficult” category. It’s certainly no walk in the park.

At every pork congress and producer meeting I attend, I ask producers; “How often do you clean your water lines?” The answers are always the same. It’s either “never,” or “I tried it once, it clogged all my drinkers, I’m never doing it again.”

The rest of the conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Well, what do you think is clogging those drinkers?”

Producer: “All the junk in those lines.”

Me: “Exactly!”

If they’re worried about ‘all the junk in those lines,” doesn’t that indicate an acknowledgement of the problem?

So, why clean water lines? Here’s a good reason

This slime was taken out of a ¾” PVC water line from a 12-year old nursery in southern MN. Imagine drinking water passing through this before getting to your pigs.

But there’s more to this picture.

Besides drinking water passing through this sludge, the scale build-up on the interior of the water line has also reduced line diameter. So, what started out as a 3/4” line is now closer to a ½” line, reducing water volume by about 30%. Less volume means less consumption, less water consumption leads to less feed consumption, and in nursing sows, less water consumption leads to less milk production. And on and on it goes. And let’s not forget, pathogens in that sludge are being transported to pigs through the drinking water.

Bottom line? It’s a mess. But…there is a fix.

For years, typical line cleaning compounds were most often peroxide-based chemistries. A 3% stock solution is created in a separate container, then, with the use of a sump pump or some type of venturi or down-stream injection system, this solution is pumped into lines, allowed to sit overnight, then flushed in the morning.

While sitting inside the line, the peroxide is doing what oxidizers do. It is bubbling up and scouring the inside of the line. When flushed the next morning, what you get is a combination of sludge and flakes of scale build-up (see below). And it’s these flakes that contribute greatly to the “it clogged all my drinkers and I’ve never doing it again” response.

There is, however, a better, familiar alternative. A chemistry that not only removes sludge and build-up, but liquifies the flakes of scale so they won’t clog drinkers. The chemistry is Peracetic acid (PAA).

Peroxyacetic acid (or PAA) is a combination of peroxide and acetic acid and provides what we refer to as a “two-stage” mode of action. First, when allowed to soak in water lines over night the oxidizing effect of peroxide works its way into cracks and crevices of scale build-up. This helps scour the interior walls of water lines while emulsifying organic build-up. This helps get the line back to its original diameter, restoring optimal water volume to the animals. As an EPA registered disinfectant, it is also reducing harmful pathogens in the line.

The second mode of action is the dissolving of scale that has been peeled from the interior wall of the line. This dissolving effect helps to break down and liquify scale and organic build-up in lines, helping to prevent stopped-up drinkers (see below).

The benefits of effective line cleaning go far beyond the increase of water volume. There are performance benefits as well. In research presented at the 2012 AASV Annual Meeting, line cleaning, when used in conjunction with best management practices, was shown to improve performance measurables like ADG, feed efficiency, and close-out weight.*

Simply fill the lines, let sit overnight, then flush the lines in the morning and your water can go from this…to this.

For more information, contact your Neogen representative.

*Examining the impact of water line cleaning, disinfection, and pH reduction on nursery pigs Andrea Pitkin, DVM, MS; Steven Stone, DVM; Jesse McCoy, BS