Our Multifactorial Approach to Zinc Oxide (ZnO) Replacement

Zinc oxide (ZnO) is widely used as an essential nutrient in low dosages and as a treatment in high dosages (up to 2500 ppm) to prevent post-weaning diarrhoea in piglets.

Despite it being commonplace, zinc oxide also has some negative effects affecting antimicrobial resistance, changes in the piglets’ microbiota, absorption of critical macro and trace minerals, accumulation of zinc ions in vital organs, as well as various negative ecological effects.

It is for these reasons that as of June 2022, the use of zinc oxide at medicinal levels (above 150 ppm) in post-weaning diets will be officially banned within the European Union.

The Challenge of Replacing Zinc Oxide at Medicinal Levels

At Kemin, we believe in a multifactorial approach to replacing therapeutic, high-level zinc oxide. We know there is a physiological need for zinc but we also know that increasing levels can harm the environment and animal health. Coupled with this is the fact that zinc oxide is not palatable and piglets consume less when zinc is present — negatively impacting gastrointestinal health and growth.

However, we also know that the low cost of zinc oxide makes finding a cost-effective alternative challenging. And to make things even more complex, every farm is unique and may require a different approach when it comes to replacing zinc oxide.

Our Solutions

We are committed to searching for unique solutions that work for you. That’s why, through our extensive research on the topic and experience in the sector, we believe that a multifactorial strategy for zinc oxide replacement is best. This is because zinc oxide cannot be replaced with a single product alone.

Our multifactorial strategy, therefore, enables piglets to still get their much-needed nutrients — without the use of zinc oxide. In this way, we can help control post-weaning diarrhoea and maintain growth performance shortly after weaning. We do this by supporting the immune system, managing intestinal integrity, controlling the microbial balance in the gut and improving digestibility to support piglets through their dramatic diet and nutritional changes. 

Our multifactorial strategy for zinc oxide replacement includes the use of:

●       β-(1,3)-glucan to support the immune system during the immunity gap at weaning

●       Slow-release butyrate to improve intestinal tract integrity, tight junctions, and nutrient absorption, which are under attack due to drastic changes in the diet

●       Bacillus Sp. PB6., a spore-forming microorganism, which has specific activity against certain potentially pathogenic bacteria favouring beneficial bacteria, to support a diverse microbiome

●       A microencapsulated blend of organic acids (calcium formate and citric acid) that can reach the intestine to manage enteric gram-negative bacterial challenges at weaning such as E. Coli.

●       A diet formulated with the correct enzymes such as KEMZYME® Plus

Our Solution: In our zinc oxide-replacement trial CLOSTAT (together with ButiPEARL™and Formyl™) succeed to replace zinc oxide fully without any performance loss and with equal health results. 


Read More in our Technical Literature — The benefits of zinc oxide replacement in Pre-starter and Starter diets for piglets.

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multifactorial strategy for zinc oxide replacement

Zinc Oxide Side Effects and Alternatives

We have identified various main side effects that zinc oxide has demonstrated (as shown in several studies): antimicrobial effects, enzyme secretion and digestibility enhancement, improved intestinal morphology, antioxidant effects and immune system priming. As such, we propose solutions that can be tailored to your specific needs on the farm:


1)     Microbiome Effects

Zinc supports the stability of the intestinal microbiome and enlarges favouring its diversity. To replace zinc oxide, there are alternative solutions available to enrich the microbiome, for example, utilising probiotics such as CLOSTAT® active microbial that contains a unique, patented strain of Bacillus subtilis PB6. PB6 attacks and kills Clostridia and other pathogenic bacteria which can negatively impact the gastrointestinal tract.

2)     Anti-Microbial Effects

Zinc oxide has been widely shown to have anti-microbial effects that have been shown to help reduce enteric gram-negative infections such as E. Coli and Salmonella. Although it was found that zinc oxide’s mode of action may not only be a direct antimicrobial effect, controlling the major enteric pathogens during this critical and transitional period is crucial for successful weaning.

Our Solution: An option for Enterobacteriaceae control is FORMYL™ or Formaxol™. We have seen that the challenge is that enteric gram-negative bacteria that mostly reside in the pig’s lower gut. Hence, microencapsulation technology allows Formyl’s active ingredients to reach pathogens where they are. Making the difference with the appropriate technology is crucial to effectively control enteric pathogens.

Improved Intestinal Morphology

Zinc is linked to the maintenance and functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. Several studies proved that pharmacological levels of zinc oxide increase the proliferation of enterocytes and villi height: crypt depth ratio. Zinc oxide also improves tight-junction expression, which is indicative of reduced intestinal permeability, and better intestinal integrity. Initially thought to have an antimicrobial effect, zinc oxide has proven to inhibit bacterial adhesion to cells, preventing the disruption of the intestinal tight-junctions.

Our Solution: An option to preserve intestinal integrity with the use of calcium butyrate using ButiPEARL.     


Read More in our Technical Literature — CLOSTAT® utilisation in piglets and sows

Immune System Modulation

Zinc oxide has been shown to reduce the expression of several pro-inflammatory cytokines while improving the transcription of the anti-inflammatory cytokine TGF-β and downregulating genes involved in the innate immune response.  Several studies have also proven the same immune-modulatory effect regarding intestinal inflammation when supplementing piglets with pharmacological levels of zinc oxide. Another study from Ou et al., 2017 showed that zinc oxide could reduce the expression of the cytokine stem cell factor (SCF), leading to a reduction of in mast cell number and release of histamine. Histamine is a key molecule for the pathogenesis of diarrhoea and inflammatory status in the intestine.

Our Solution: Another strategy besides using zinc oxide is the use of algae beta-glucan, such as Aleta™.


Exclusive solutions for our partners

Once you have decided to work with Kemin’s solutions, we stand by your side every step of the way. The application can be tailored to your specific needs and technical expertise, application support and laboratory services are available to you. Our technical team is always available for farm visits to design tailor-made solutions supporting you in your preventive strategies. Therefore, next to the technical expertise, we offer you diagnostic services for various pathogens: from on-farm test kits to laboratory analysis. Our teams perform different antibody titer measurements on blood samples to ensure an effective vaccination, as well as immunoglobulin detection in milk and colostrum.

The data-driven knowledge, experience, and research insights are available to provide you with support, guidance and training. This will enable a correct evaluation of your challenge, the appropriate solution and the approach or implementation. We have access to an international professional network with local specialists to address you in your language and fitted to your specific needs. For you as a client, we go beyond the limit to support you and to ensure your success.

ZnO is a well-known tool to support young piglets during the challenging post-weaning period. The deadline of June 2022 is approaching when high dosages of zinc in animal diets will be banned. To assure optimal animal performance, farmers and veterinarians must find a way to take immediate action when potential treats like pathogens arise in their facilities. Onsight diagnostics tools, like the Rainbow kit, can confirm immediately any potential threat from multiple pathogens on site. The reliability and high sensitivity of the kit help farmers and veterinarians to make rational decisions. Kemin believes that point of care analysis will help animal professionals to take immediate action for prevention of economic losses due to pathogen contaminations in the farm. Kemin offers to his partners, on-farm diagnostic toolkits and clinical expertise, and specific pathogen evaluation in laboratory facilities.




To ensure a smooth transition at weaning without relying on high doses of zinc oxide, we need a holistic approach and we believe in using this to work towards increasing the resilience of piglets.  Challenging post-weaning conditions such as diet and immunological changes, stress and different environments to which piglets are exposed, favour the intestinal growth of bacteria associated with diarrhoea making it crucial to draw up a plan of action that can result in reducing the pathogenic load.  


Are you interested in learning more about our Multifactorial Approach to Zinc Oxide (ZnO) Replacement? Watch our Webinar on Alternatives to AGPs and Zinc Oxide in the Pig during the Post-Weaning Period.