Therapeutic zinc in piglet production is a thing of the past

Zinc-free feeding - weaning piglets without zinc

We’re sorry but, in our opinion, there is not a comparable 1:1 replacement for zinc. But please don’t despair, there is better news: Good solutions are being developed and phasing zinc out will be possible in a sensible way. 

For some time, we have researched and collaborated with farmers and a number of universities to find zinc-free solutions. We have some preliminary results, which show us that it can be solved when we consider feeding, care and management collectively, and if we approach it a little differently than today. We need to work together with the pig, rather than having a safety net under it.


Zinc-free feeding - are you ready?

After June 2022, therapeutic zinc inclusion in piglet feed is banned. Zinc-free feeding will be a challenge throughout the EU as legislation is changed. Are you ready for zinc-free feeding?

Why can’t I feed therapeutic zinc?

Therapeutic zinc for animals requires a prescription. Until now, it has been used to prevent diarrhoea in piglets that have been weaned. However, there are concerns about the long-term impact of zinc oxide on the environment. That is why the EU Scientific Committee on Veterinary Medicinal Products (CVMP) recommended at a meeting on 6-8 December, 2020 that all medicines containing therapeutic zinc for piglets should be withdrawn from the market.

In addition, there has also been a concern that the added zinc may pose a risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals. These two reasons are the main ones that determine, after June 2022, that it is not permitted to use therapeutic zinc for the prevention of weaning diarrhoea.

When do the rules come into force?

On June 26th 2022, legislation will be amended so that it is no longer permitted to use therapeutic zinc in feed for piglets. Therefore, both as pig producers and suppliers of feed, we must think about new options and new solutions.

Addition of extra zinc to the feed after weaning has been possible and effective and it has been a tool that we needed to prevent weaning diarrhoea. Now we must reverse our mindset to prevention instead of control.


What is the difference between zinc for piglets?

It is important to know that two types of zinc are used for piglets - and it is the therapeutic zinc that is banned from use after June 2022.

What is therapeutic zinc?

Therapeutic zinc is a drug that is prescribed by veterinarians. It is typically added up to a maximum of 2500 ppm/kg feed to control weaning diarrhoea in piglets and this will no longer be possible.

What is mineral zinc?

Mineral zinc is a mineral that is added to the feed up to a maximum of 150 ppm/kg. The pigs need zinc to grow, and will still be legal to use mineral zinc.

Why does it become a challenge for pig producers to wean the piglets?

There are 3 major challenges you, as a pig producer, will face when it is no longer permitted to use therapeutic zinc for your piglets.

Increased diarrhoea frequency

Until now, we have used zinc to prevent weaning diarrhoea in piglets. It typically occurs in the transition from drinking the sow's milk to being given feed. Therefore, a bridge must be built in some other way between the two scenarios for pigs, so that there is an economically and professionally sound transition.

Declining productivity

Many solutions have been tried and tested to meet the requirement for zinc-free feeding. For example, the amount of protein inclusion has been investigated. When there is less protein in the feed, it has a positive effect on weaning diarrhoea, but it has a negative effect on productivity.

Increased production costs

If the piglets become sick from weaning diarrhoea and if productivity decreases, it means as a producer it costs more to get the pigs to slaughter weight. Therefore, focus must be on management protocols adapted to each individual production unit in order to meet the new zinc-free requirements in the most optimal way.

Welcome to zinc-free piglet production

As a pig producer, it can be difficult to see the positives, but the law has been passed, so the right thing to do is prepare as best you can for the new situation. It requires proper composition of your feed, uniformity in your feed, stability in caring for the pigs as well as adapting management.

Researchers and advisers in AB Neo have been working intensively, developing solutions that make it possible to phase out therapeutic zinc without adversely affecting the welfare of the pigs.

It is also important that the consumption of antibiotics is kept low and responsible, just as it is of course also important that the new solutions are financially reasonable for you as a pig producer.