Do turkeys have a drinking problem?

Dr. Mueez Ahmad, DVM

Technical services veterinarian


Although we’ve heard of chickens crossing the road from various sources, turkeys apparently are not very interested in whatever may be on the other side of the road. It sounds like turkeys have a better road sense than chickens. However, when it comes to having a drinking problem, turkeys seem to be the ones losing ground.

The turkey industry is going through a transitional phase from open drinkers to closed drinking systems, and many questions are being raised about the best method to provide turkeys with an adequate supply of safe water. Turkeys generally require a high volume of water to grow and perform. However, the open watering systems in use that easily supply the high volume of water turkeys need can also provide an ideal breeding ground for bacterial growth and cross-contamination from bird-to-bird. 

The optimal chemical composition of drinking water for turkeys is also being studied. As birds tend to drink more water if it is slightly below neutral pH, water acidification is a common practice to improve flock performance. A controlled study was conducted at the University of Arkansas by Jana Cornelison and Susan Watkins to evaluate the impact of various acids in the marketplace on turkey performance. The result of this trial indicated that lowering the pH of the drinking water with various acidifiers has no impact on performance. In fact, there was increased mortality in one incidence when drinking water pH dropped to 4 (Avian Advice, volume 7, no. 2).

As water is an essential nutrient, any drastic change and alteration of water chemistry must be reviewed closely. The ultimate objective for healthy drinking water should be to provide the appropriate volume with minimal chemical alteration and no bacterial contamination.

DuPont and Neogen have collaborated in an attempt to create an improved drinking water system for turkeys. The system offers improved taste and odor by binding heavy metals and sulpher in the water. It generates a controlled amount of chlorine dioxide (ClO₂) for water disinfection; the low level of chlorine dioxide provides 2.6 times stronger water disinfection compared to chlorine and bleach-based water sanitizers and disinfectants. Chlorine also has a narrow biocidal spectrum at 1 to 5 ppm compared to chlorine dioxide, and produces known carcinogens in the drinking water.

For further details of this unique water disinfection concept, please contact Neogen.

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