Photo: DAFC

Photo: Danish Agriculture & Food Council

June 2022 – A toolbox for the phasing out of medicinal zinc in Danish pig production

On 25th June, medicinal zinc in Danish pig production will come to an end. What will this mean for Denmark’s pig production? SEGES Innovation has launched a number of tools to equip producers for the challenges that may arise from its phasing out.

Over the past five years, the phasing out of medicinal zinc has been a major topic of discussion among pig producers across the world. For several years, medicinal zinc provided an alternative to antibiotics to reduce/prevent weaning diarrhoea in piglets. In 2017, the EU announced that the use of medicinal zinc would be phased out by June of this year. It is now the last chance if pig producers across Europe are to find an alternative to zinc.

Read also: Use of medicinal zinc to be discontinued by June 2022

Phasing out of zinc before 25 June 2022
The phasing out of medicinal zinc comes at a time when the EU wants to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock production. For this reason, pig producers are now faced with a number of challenges. As far as Danish producers are concerned, efforts and adjustments are required to phase out medicinal zinc while maintaining Danish pig production’s low antibiotic use.

Focus on the environment and nutrition in the early weaning section to alleviate weaning diarrhoea
SEGES Innovation has launched a number of initiatives to equip producers with tools to alleviate weaning diarrhoea in piglets without using medicinal zinc in the weaning section.

A number of elements are at play when it comes to addressing the challenge. Focusing on nutrition and a clean and warm environment in the weaning section is important to reduce possible stress and disease in weaning piglets.

Read also: Vaccine to replace medicinal zinc developed alongside the COVID-19 vaccine

New Danish project on gentle feeding with zinc free weaning
One of the tools to alleviate weaning diarrhoea through nutrition can be found in the results from a Danish feed project conducted by SEGES Innovation. Diarrhoea typically occurs within the first 10-14 days after weaning. It may vary between herds but will often come at the same time week after week. One of the reasons for the onset of diarrhoea may be that not all piglets have an equally mature intestine system after weaning, which makes it difficult for some piglets to digest feed high in protein.

The feeding project therefore trialled a gentle feed mixture, where the amount of protein was reduced to 13% crude protein. One of the consequences of gentle feeding may be a reduction in daily growth.

"To minimise the production loss, the pigs in the trial were given feed with a very low protein content, but only for a short period when we know that weaning diarrhoea is a problem,” says Tina Sørensen, Senior Consultant for the feeding project known as 'Healthy Intestine' at SEGES Innovation.

Results from gentle feeding for piglets
The results from the project have shown that less protein in piglet feed in the first days of weaning can have a beneficial effect on the number of treatment days with antibiotics while not affecting the piglet’s daily growth. The pigs in the control group and the trial group were weighed regularly: on day 35, there was no difference in weight between the two groups of pigs.

Results from the Healthy Intestine feeding project


Daily growth

Treatment days with antibiotics per pig

Control group

340 gram / day

4.8 treatment days

Trial group with gentle feeding

343 gram / day

3.2 treatment days

The feeding project is one of several possible initiatives that pig producers can work with to achieve zinc-free weaning without increasing the herd’s antibiotic consumption.

Read also: New Danish research into piglet incubators

Zero Zinc Summit 2022 – seminar on zinc-free pig production
Following a Danish initiative, an international seminar on zinc-free weaning in pig production was held in 2019. Covid-19 put paid to recent conferences, but this year it is finally possible to hold a seminar on the topic. Danish and international speakers will share knowledge and research in the field with the aim of finding a new strategy for international zinc-free pig production. Zero Zinc Summit 2022 will be held on 22-23 June 2022 in Copenhagen.

Click here to see the programme & register for the Zero Zinc Summit 2022