Zinc is an essential nutrient, zinc oxide at up to 3.100 ppm is not. Replacing it with alternatives will assure better mineral absorption, and therefore healthy pinkish piglets. Additional gut integrity and appropriate immune response can also be maintained without zinc oxide at high levels. And finally, as it is not very palatable, piglets will show a better feed intake after weaning and improved feed conversion. This can be explained by scientific studies, but also clearly demonstrated in the field.
“Zinc is the trace element involved in more biological functions than any other micro-mineral in the nutrition of the newly weaned pig.”
Dr. Hill, 2014, Journal of Animal Science
In all zinc replacement it is important to keep in mind that zinc is an essential nutrient. There are suggestions that the current legal limit in the EU (150ppm) is already below the physiological needs of young piglets.
Zinc is important to maintain intestinal structure. However, it is not the only tool to maintain mucosal integrity. Butyrates (ButiPEARL) are crucial for this effect. Most of the piglets’ immune system in located in the gut. Having the immune system triggered and ready (Aleta) is equally crucial to manage weaning as safely as possible.
In dosages of zinc oxide above the current requirements growth promotion can be observed, diminishing rapidly with the inclusion rate. This suggests current zinc recommendations are below requirements. Growth in young piglets can be promoted through more efficient absorption of nutrients (LYSOFORTE, ButiPEARL) and starter diets that encourage early feed intake.
It is possible to early wean piglets without high zinc-oxide levels. If all effects of the zinc are covered by an alternative solution. A thorough field trial proved even considerably better animal performance and welfare in the zinc oxide free groups.
Zinc has many benefits, but high dosages of zinc come with one major disadvantage. The transport of zinc and other minerals is competitive. By overdosing zinc even from a short time after weaning the uptake of other important minerals for example magnesium, copper or iron is reduced. If supplementation continues, this becomes visible as those piglets are paler in colour than expected for a healthy animal due to lack of iron.
The aim should be to maximise absorption capacity for minerals and other nutrients but supporting the ability of the intestine for absorption. Better mineral absorption has been linked to a reduced risk of cannibalism in pigs.