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Norfolk pig farm cuts water use by half – now the idea is in demand around the globe

The containerised drinking system at LSB Pigs, based at East Rudham, which has cut water use by 50%. Picture: Rob McGregor

The containerised drinking system at LSB Pigs, based at East Rudham, which has cut water use by 50%. Picture: Rob McGregor

Rob McGregor

A Norfolk pig farm has halved its water use by developing a containerised drinking system which is now attracting interest from across the world.

Rob McGregor of LSB Pigs at East Rudham, with the containerised drinking system which has cut the farm's water use by 50%. Picture: LSB PigsRob McGregor of LSB Pigs at East Rudham, with the containerised drinking system which has cut the farm's water use by 50%. Picture: LSB Pigs

LSB Pigs, based at East Rudham near Fakenham, has also improved the health and performance of its outdoor herd after installing heavy-duty moulded plastic tanks with nipple drinkers, which the animals can bite or press to make the water flow.

The system was developed to find an alternative to traditional open troughs which were easily contaminated with mud, stones and droppings.

After experimenting with second-hand metal tanks and algae-prone clear plastic containers, the farm worked with Littleport-based engineering firm Techneat to design custom-made tanks to keep water clean, while keeping temperatures cooler in the summer and preventing freezing in the winter.

Sunlight cannot penetrate the plastic, which is made with an antibacterial additive to prevent mould, bacteria and algae growing.

The containerised drinking system at LSB Pigs, based at East Rudham, which has cut water use by 50%. Picture: Rob McGregorThe containerised drinking system at LSB Pigs, based at East Rudham, which has cut water use by 50%. Picture: Rob McGregor

Although the pigs drink more from the tanks, the farm now uses 50pc less water overall because of reduced wastage, spillage and evaporation in the summer.

And a year-long study with the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) found that because lactating sows are drinking more clean water, the piglets were around 0.5kg heavier at weaning.

Farm manager Rob McGregor said: “One of the things we have always struggled with was providing water in open troughs, mostly because of reliability because the sows are in a position to cause so much damage to them, but also we get problems with contamination and the continual routine of cleaning them out and digging out all kinds of nasty things from the pig water troughs.

“Now we have clean water and the pigs actually drink more, especially in the summer months on the farrowing paddocks when they are lactating.

The containerised drinking system at LSB Pigs, based at East Rudham, which has cut water use by 50%. Picture: Rob McGregorThe containerised drinking system at LSB Pigs, based at East Rudham, which has cut water use by 50%. Picture: Rob McGregor

“It suggests the water is better to drink and in summer it is cooler and more refreshing.

“The sow drinks more, so she has the capacity to produce more milk and is in a position to rear the litter better. But overall, because we are not wasting water from spillage evaporation or displacement the net result was a 50pc reduction in water use.

“After the AHDB trial finished we switched the entire unit over to 100pc clean water tanks. There is not a single open water trough here now.”

The tanks are sold to other farms across the world through Techneat’s specialist outdoor pig division, called Con-Tented Products.

Rob McGregor of LSB Pigs at East Rudham, with the containerised drinking system which has cut the farm's water use by 50%. Picture: LSB PigsRob McGregor of LSB Pigs at East Rudham, with the containerised drinking system which has cut the farm's water use by 50%. Picture: LSB Pigs

“They were sold to Australia and New Zealand recently, and they get quite a few European inquiries – even one from Norway,” said Mr McGregor. “We have some very high performing units around here who say they will never use open troughs again. It is the old traditionalists that worry about change who are the hardest to get the message across to.

“Farmers are not always the fastest to adopt new ideas – people need a bit of encouragement sometimes.”

LSB Pigs runs a total of 1,550 sows on 62ha of land at East Rudham and Weasenham, producing 28-day-old weaners for BQP Tulip.

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