The solution to an alternative for zinc oxide in pigs will be a combination of good management and nutrition, according to Torben Skov Ancker, product manager at Honsyld Kobmandsgaard A/S in Denmark. Ancker spoke Tuesday at ONE 18, The Alltech Ideas Conference, in Lexington, Kentucky.
In the European Union, the use of zinc oxide in pig feed will be banned by 2022.
Zinc from animal feed is secreted in feces, resulting in heavy metals in the soil. The heavy metals accumulate in the soil, creating environmental problems in the long term, and can result in bacterial resistance in animals and humans.
Zinc oxide is used in piglet feed to reduce diarrhea in the first two weeks after weaning.
Ancker said several alternatives to zinc oxide have been tested, including seaweed, probiotics and a yeast product, but with little success. He said tests on alternatives, including a high-quality protein, will continue, but no single product will replace the benefits of zinc oxide.
A good solution, Ancker said, consists of good management – like good weaned piglets and sow feeding – and nutrition – such as a combination of low protein, highly digestible proteins, fiber, low calcium, additives and plasma.
Criteria for a successful replacement include effective absorption of nutrients, a functional and protective intestinal barrier, stable and beneficial microbiota and a minimum activation of the animal’s stress system.