What’s hiding in the water lines: Terminal water line cleaning in the poultry house

Picture a standpipe at the end of the water lines in a poultry house. Does it look clear? Is the pressure ball visible? Can the wall behind it be seen through the pipe? Or does it look cloudy, stained from years of use?

“Unfortunately, there are standpipes around the world in poultry houses that are opaque with years of buildup,” said Neogen poultry expert Lindsay Good. “If the water line was opened further down the line, a similar occurrence would be seen. Water on poultry farms can carry harmful pathogens, algae-forming organisms, and mineral sediments that cause buildup to form inside of water lines.”

The buildup in water lines can cause a host of problems, including:

  • Growth and introduction of pathogens to be passed down the water line
  • Mineral buildup that clogs nipples
  • Algae buildup that clogs nipples
  • Reduction of water volume due to decreased diameter of the pipe

Scale and biofilm buildup of 1/16 inch along the inside of ¾ inch pipe reduces water volume flow by 1.7 gallons per minute. As the industry continues to improve the genetics of birds, allowing for a larger bird to be raised with the same equipment, water availability becomes more important.

“Luckily, the process for alleviating these issues is a simple one,” said Good. “Terminal water line cleaning and disinfection can reduce or eliminate buildup in the water lines. In between flocks, water lines can be disinfected to remove solids and eliminate any biology that may be in the lines.”

Choosing the proper product

While there are products marketed as water line cleaners on the market, it is recommended to only use water line disinfectants that have been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Registration with the EPA indicates that these water line disinfectants are proven to kill pathogens important to the poultry producer, such as Influenza A, E. coli, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens (vegetative). Water line disinfectants also help to clear the biofilm that accumulates along the inside of the water line, increasing volume and reducing issues with clogged drinkers. EPA-registered water line disinfectants include both silver-stabilized hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid chemistries.

When making the choice between registered water line disinfectants, it is important to understand what type of buildup is occurring in the lines. In water lines where there is mineral buildup consistent with areas that have hard water, a peracetic acid blend disinfectant that cuts through mineral buildup easily should be used. For water lines where an organic slime accumulation has been observed, a silver-stabilized hydrogen peroxide chemistry is recommended.

How to apply a terminal water line disinfectant

Both silver-stabilized hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid blend water line disinfectants can be applied in similar manners. Always follow the application directions provided on the label of the product. After removing all birds from the barn, water line disinfectants may be applied through one of the following methods:

  1. Mixing station or venturi-style pump with the correct metering tip per label directions installed
  2. Manually mixing the product to the appropriate dilution in a container and injecting into the water line through a sump pump

Flush the solution through the water lines, then trigger all the drinkers to ensure that the product removes any film present in the nipple assembly. Allow the solution to sit in the water lines overnight. In the morning, flush the lines with fresh water. Again, trigger all the drinkers to ensure proper function and that the water disinfectant solution has been flushed out. Once all the water line disinfectant solution has been flushed, the house can be heated up and birds can be placed.

Terminal water line cleaning and disinfection is the first step in ensuring that the water provided to birds is of a high quality. Clean water lines allow for not only adequate volume of water being delivered to the birds, but also water that is free of pathogens, which is important for flock health. Terminal water line disinfection is the easy answer to dirty water lines and dirty standpipes.

This post is part of our series on water lines in the poultry house. See the rest of the articles here.

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