What are consequences of the ban for farmers?
The ban will increase the risk for the development of digestive problems in piglets after weaning. Most pig producers already have very high standards of hygiene and management practices, but the ZnO ban means we have to even better take care of these things. This could mean that we have to re-evaluate for example the state of the weaning facilities. Are the feeders and drinkers still ok? It is also important to have the right pig genetics to match the sanitary level of your farm. With the right health plan, weaning management and hygiene practices you can keep weaner performance and animal welfare high, without increasing the risk for intestinal issues and the associated financial consequences.
What will be the main visible changes when ZnO is removed?
Changes can be seen in the faeces. The colours and consistency changes (the litter is wetter). This in turn is reflected on the cleanliness of the environment. Because of the wet litter, a farmer might see an increase in the number of dirty looking pigs in the barn. In terms of production parameters, a drop in daily feed intake can be observed.
Do you have management recommendations for farmers to work with zero zinc diets?
A slight lower performance after weaning is common. But there are several things farmers can do to prevent a prolonged weaning dip. Climate, overall health and stress reduction around weaning also reduce the risk for problems. In terms of nutrition, focus on suppling the correct amount of (fresh) feed for the age and weight of the pigs and aim for maximum feed intake before and after weaning. This will help the development of the intestines and increases the change that feed intake levels and performance remain high after weaning. Do not forget the importance of fresh water at all times. The use of feed additives is part of the nutritional approach to help a smooth weaning process.
Does the need for antibiotics increase after the ZnO ban?
Many will be concerned that after the ban on therapeutic levels of ZnO, the use of antibiotics to control intestinal problems will increase. Antibiotics are a short-term decision to substitute ZnO and it doesn’t contribute to creating a healthy microbiome. We know that a balance and healthy microbiome is key for reaching optimal performance in the growing- finishing period. We believe that we can live without high levels of zinc oxide in pig diets. It needs a holistic approach, with management and nutrition as the core components.