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Use of drinking water was determined for 51 litters of piglets by weighing and refilling a water dispenser each day for the first 4 d after farrowing. Measures of spillage, evaporation, and piglet drinking behavior indicated that most disappearance of water represented actual drinking by the piglets. Water use varied greatly among litters with an average of 46 g d‒1 per piglet over the 4 d, and a range of negligible use to about 200 g d‒1. Water use, especially on day 2, was correlated negatively with the average weight gain of the litter during the first 2 d (r = ‒0.45, P < 0.001). Litters that lost weight or gained very little on days 1 and 2 showed a pronounced peak of water use on day 2 (averaging about 100 g d‒1 per piglet), with declining use on days 3 and 4. In contrast, litters with high initial weight gains drank little water on days 1 and 2 but showed a steady increase in water use to day 4. The results suggest that piglets will drink appreciable amounts of water on the first days after birth especially if their milk intake is limited. We speculate that under these circumstances water intake may help to prevent dehydration and promote survival of piglets with low early milk intake.


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