Alternatives to zinc oxide for more potent piglets

The nutritional and environmental experiences by weaning piglets contribute to gastro-intestinal and immune system disturbances.
calendar icon 16 December 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

Author: Elisabet Rodriguez, Swine Marketing Manager, Novus International, Inc.

These can result in an increased susceptibility to gut disorders and, in some instances, to diarrhoea, morbidity and even death. In particular, during the first week after weaning, often a reduced feed intake is seen due to a rise in blood cortisol levels as consequence of the different stressors the piglets are exposed to. This impairs growth performance and can lead to higher mortality rates, causing significant economic losses for the pig producer.

To manage this transition, often antibiotics and/or high levels of zinc oxide (ZnO) are added to piglet diets. It has been shown that high levels of ZnO two weeks post-weaning can help reduce diarrhoea and support piglet growth. However, many negative side effects may result ranging from altered bacterial composition in the gut to increased environmental impact due to mineral excretion.

An alternative to these practices is the use of benzoic acid, which has strong antimicrobial properties and a proven record of increasing daily weight gain and feed/gain ratio in piglets. A unique, protected source of flavouring compounds including benzoic acid (PBA, PROVENIA™ from Novus International) aims to enhance piglet intestinal health while minimising all negative handling aspects at the feed production site that are linked to using free benzoic acid. The protective vegetable fat matrix improves handling characteristics and ensures the active ingredient reaches the intestinal tract, where it is most beneficial.

A comparative trial between piglets fed ZnO and PBA produced the results below.

The research demonstrated that supplementing the diet of weaned piglets with a protected in-feed solution based on benzoic acid, may be a potential alternative program to a two-week high level of ZnO inclusion in the diet. This could possibly be explained by PBA acting in the digestive tract to balance the intestinal microbiota and enhance digestive function in young pigs, leading to an improved utilisation of dietary nutrients and better performance, with fewer digestive problems like diarrhoea. This ensures an optimal piglet performance for maintaining high profitability while improving the environmental footprint of pig production in comparison to high levels of dietary Zn.

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