Coffee & Careers Scholarship Winner – First Place

Shannon Dierking

South Dakota State University – Ph.D. Swine Nutrition

How nutrition can modify the environmental impact of swine production

It was a phrase I heard all too often while growing up: “Would you turn that faucet off?
You’re wasting so much water!” When I was young, I did not fully understand the importance of
water limitations. Now, as one of many animal scientists, the future of the swine industry is in
our hands and we play a role in taking care of the environment. Water is one of the six essential
nutrients for all living organisms, and unfortunately it is often the forgotten nutrient, usually
being overlooked to aspects that play a much larger role in swine diets, such as energy and amino

Decreasing water usage across the industry will play a critical factor in reducing our
environmental footprint. Determining the cause of excess water usage within barns is the first
step to reducing overall water usage. Some factors that need to be fully evaluated include
production practices, such as housing type, waterer type, temperature and ventilation control,
phase of production, and types of enrichment provided. We also need to search the existing
literature and consider the actual water intake needs of the pigs across all stages of production.
Work reported by M.C. Brumm found that water: feed ratios decline as a pig grows and
depending on the type of waterer offered, which highlights the differences of water distribution
to pigs. Taking that into account across systems will allow us to accurately compare actual water
meter usage to determine areas of improvement.

Different waterer types can be analyzed, for example, using a wet/dry feeder vs a nipple
waterer, cup waterer, or a trough. A large majority of the time nipple waterers are played without of boredom rather than specifically for drinking, so looking at behavior and usage side by
side is important. In addition to waterer type, adjusting the flow rate could allow producers to
find the “sweet spot” for their own operation. This would provide the individual supervisors of
the barns to adjust the water flow rate back to cut down on overall waste, which will save the
farm pennies on the dollar as the overall gallons used are reduced. Additionally, this impact
could be beneficial to the system, with less liquid waste in the pit system, and could extend the
storage capabilities of those individual barn pits. There are many other factors that would need to
be fully analyzed to garner a complete understanding of where and why excess water usage is
occurring in a production system. Once these causes have been identified, then steps to reduce
wastage can be implemented.

While water is one of the most overlooked nutrients, realizing the impact that a reduction
in usage could have on our environmental footprint is necessary to create an efficient, but
environmentally minded product. Determining the appropriate waterer type with the most
beneficial flow rate for the individual production system will allow both producers

About Shannon…

Shannon Dierking is a current Ph.D. student studying swine reproductive physiology and
nutrition at South Dakota State University. She grew up on a small, diversified agriculture farm
near Cook, NE, where her family raised corn, soybeans, and a very small farrow-to-finish hog
system. It was here, among farrowing crates and grain bins, that her love for agriculture,
particularly that on that the swine side, was born.

After graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a B.S. in Animal Science,
she moved to Lexington, KY in August of 2017 to pursue a Master of Science Degree at the
The University of Kentucky under the guidance of Dr. Merlin Lindemann. Her Master’s research
focused on the impact of essential oil supplementation on sow fecal dry matter and piglet
weaning weight. After completing her degree in July of 2019, she moved back to the Midwest
and started her Ph.D. program at South Dakota State University under the guidance of Dr. Crystal
Levesque. Her dissertation research focuses on the detection of biological markers for early estrus in
pre-pubertal gilts.

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