The Impact of Water Quality

For better bird health – and a healthier bottom line – it’s worth thinking about how best to manage your water system
Treena Hein
Monday, 07 May 2012
By Treena Hein
In evaluating water treatment systems, Hayes advises poultry producers to ask lots of questions, verify the answers, and remember it is just as important to know what a  technology will not do as it is to know what it will do.
In evaluating water treatment systems, Hayes advises poultry producers to ask lots of questions, verify the answers, and remember it is just as important to know what a technology will not do as it is to know what it will do.

As with many things in life, including farming, quality matters. Poultry producers carefully manage feed quality, conditions in the barn, and many other factors, but water quality needs more attention, says Charlie Hayes, president at Advanced Treatment Technologies (ATT) in North Carolina. “After spending ten years in the poultry industry researching and developing methods to improve performance and reduce cost, I came to the realization that the industry had analyzed just about every detail of production down to the finest point, except one,” he says. “I came to see that supplying high quality water to birds makes a large difference in bird health and maximizing profits.”

Hayes says the poultry industry has defined “effective water treatment” as having the necessary equipment to prevent the mechanical issues that dirty water creates — clogged lines, algae growth and so on — but that goal is not nearly enough. “Some growers take it a step further and have determined that by disinfecting the water, they can reduce the incidence of disease, so they added this goal to their water treatment plan,” he notes. “But the goal which will yield the greatest returns in bird health and farm profitability is to consider water the most important nutrient provided. And the pathway to reach this goal is to put the right water treatment systems in place.”

In evaluating water treatment systems, Hayes advises poultry producers to ask lots of questions, verify the answers, and remember that it is just as important to know what a technology will not do as it is to know what it will do. “In the past, and in most cases today, water treatment system purchases are viewed as “component buying” decisions — filters, chemical dosing pumps, and so on,” he notes. “Each decision is isolated and made mostly on its own merit, not on how it does or does not fit into the overall water quality plan for the facility.” He adds, “This thought process must change if we are to step into the next level of water quality management, developing a “Comprehensive Water Management Plan.””

This plan, says Hays, should focus on delivering water which will produce the healthiest birds possible, while reducing labour and the costs of water treatment as well as reducing a producer’s exposure to environmental and regulatory hurdles. “The first step is to determine your water quality by doing a detailed water analysis,” he asserts. “Find out your mineral and metal content at the source, and get a detailed analysis from samples at your drinker lines for bacteria and other organisms such as mould.” The next step, he says, is to set a goal for your water quality, and then look into the technologies that are available to bring you to your goal. “If you involve an industry person,” he notes, “the right person will help you look at all parts of your system — your water source, collection ponds or tanks, pumping systems, piping, spray bird-cooling systems, filtration, disinfection and so on.” Hayes says that as you move towards your goal of high-quality water delivery, any mechanical issues of your water system will also be addressed.

Technology options
The water treatment technology you choose, Hayes says, should be capable of removing some constituents and leaving others in. “A worthy system should remove precipitated solids, iron, manganese and organisms of all types, but leave in ‘water hardness components’ such as calcium and phosphorus for the benefit of bird health,” he says. “An oxidizer in the water will accomplish all these things. It will also remove the biofilm growing in the water distribution system, but not affect the beneficial micro-flora in the birds’ intestinal tracts.” Hayes says chemical oxidizers of other types expose birds to potential negative aspects such as reducing water intake. Chemical oxidizers can also kill the beneficial micro-flora in the birds intestines

He says the best oxidizing technology is ozone-based, with filtration after ozonation — and if surface water is being used, pre-filtration as well.  “In addition, ozonation results in an elevated dissolved oxygen level in the water, which provides additional benefit to bird health and performance.”

Hayes says the payback potential that can be expected by delivering higher water quality to your birds is mainly determined by the current water quality being provided to your birds now. 

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