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Photo: Peter Prik Larsen

A future without the therapeutic use of zinc oxide

In June, SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre brought together 460 scientists and experts from 33 countries. The purpose: to share experiences from the work to find alternatives to the therapeutic use of zinc oxide.

By June 2022, the therapeutic use of zinc oxide for treating weaning diarrhoea will be phased out in European pig production – primarily for environmental reasons. Alternatives therefore need to be found which do not result in the increased use of antibiotics. In June, SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre hosted the Zero Zinc Summit in Copenhagen.

"We know that experts around the world have a lot to offer in terms of their knowledge about this issue. We all have an incentive to share our knowledge to ensure that we have solutions in place for weaning without the therapeutic use of zinc oxide when the ban comes into force,” says Lisbeth Shooter, Senior Manager, SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre.

“I’m delighted that Denmark has been able to attract so many international scientists to an event such as this. I spoke to a number of the participants who said they frequently look to Denmark and our pig production. They do so because they know we know about being cost-effective and running a good, sustainable production with low antibiotic consumption and high animal welfare standards,” Lisbeth Shooter adds.

Read also: Antibiotics: Danish pig production singled out as international role model

No quick fix
The many experts who shared their latest research at the Zero Zinc Summit and the discussions with delegates during the two-day event have provided inspiration for the further work to find alternatives. The summit also provided participants with an understanding that this is a joint challenge that needs to be solved together.

Senior Scientist Alfons Jansman from Wageningen listed the following feed initiatives as the most significant:

  • Feeding before weaning to develop gut microbiota and intestinal development
  • Choice of protein sources in relation to functionality and digestibility
  • Optimisation of digestible protein and amino acid levels in the feed
  • Choice of starch and fibre sources
  • Use of feed additives (organic acids, enzymes, pre and probiotics)
  • The structure of feed and its taste

Other speakers also presented their views on possible alternatives.

As well as using the summit as a source of fresh inspiration, SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre is also continuing the work that is already underway:

"We have a number of trials underway that are investigating alternatives to the therapeutic use of zinc oxide. And we have set up a zinc preparedness scheme comprising experts from the industry who are willing to share their experiences and explore what solutions can be found,” says Lisbeth Shooter.

"It is very likely that the combination of additives and ingredients and other feed-related initiatives will come into play when the therapeutic use of zinc oxide can no longer be used in feed if the same productivity and occurrence of diarrhoea are to be achieved in piglet housing units,” says Lisbeth Shooter.

If you want to know more about the Zero Zink Summit feel free to write to our Communication Consultant Rasmus Lind, SEGES: rali@seges.dk.

Read more about the International Conference on International Zinc here