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Zinc Oxide Replacement for Improved Health and Growth of Piglets

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.


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 high 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 to replacing zinc oxide. 

We are committed to searching for unique solutions that work for you. Zinc oxide cannot be replaced with a single product alone. 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. Our strategy enables piglets to still get their much-needed nutrients — without the use of zinc oxide. In this way, we can help control post-weaning diarrhea and maintain growth performance shortly after weaning. We do this by enhancing enzyme secretion and digestibility to support piglets through their dramatic diet and nutritional changes and to limit the passage of undigested nutrients.

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 favoring 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

multifactorial strategy for zinc oxide replacement

Zinc oxide has demonstrated benefits: 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 increases its diversity. To replace zinc oxide, there are alternative solutions available to enrich the microbiome. These include using probiotics such as CLOSTAT. CLOSTAT is an 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.

Our solution: In our zinc oxide-replacement trial CLOSTAT (together with ButiPEARL and Formyl) succeed in fully replacing zinc oxide, without any performance loss and with equivalent health results.  

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

2. Antimicrobial effects

Zinc oxide has antimicrobial effects that help reduce enteric gram-negative infections such as E. Coli and Salmonella. Although 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 enteric gram-negative bacteria mainly reside in the pig’s lower gut. Hence, microencapsulation technology allows Formyl’s active ingredients to reach the lower gut and thereby effectively control enteric pathogens.

3. Improved intestinal morphology

Zinc helps to maintain and promote optimal gastrointestinal tract functioning. Several studies have shown that pharmacological levels of zinc oxide increase enterocytes proliferation and villi height to 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

4. Immune System Modulation

Zinc oxide has been shown to reduce the expression of several pro-inflammatory cytokines. It upregulates the transcription of the anti-inflammatory cytokine TGF-β and downregulates genes involved in the innate immune response.  Several studies have also proven the same immune-modulatory effect on 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 mast cell reductions and less histamine release. Histamine is a key molecule for the pathogenesis of diarrhea and inflammation in the intestine.

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

 

To ensure a smooth transition at weaning, without relying on high doses of zinc oxide, we need a holistic approach. This is the approach we use to increase piglet resilience. Challenging post-weaning conditions such as diet and immunological changes, stress, and different environments to which piglets are exposed, favor the intestinal growth of bacteria associated with diarrhea making it crucial to develop a plan of action that reduces the pathogenic load.