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Zinc oxide ban An alternative plan?

By Pete Wilcock, AB Vista, Ian Wellock, Primary Diets, Carrie Walk, AB Vista, Paul Toplis, Premier Nutrition

For environmental reasons, the European Union has embarked on a process that may lead to a serious reduction of zinc oxide limits for just-weaned piglets. But is that really necessary? In combination with superdosing of phytase, perhaps limits don’t have to come down that much at all.

A frequent question from European Union (EU) pig producers over the last decade has been ‘When will Zinc Oxide (ZnO) be banned’? Despite the tangible fear among pig producers that it might happen anytime soon the proposed ban by the Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary use (CVMP) in December 2016 seems to have caught everyone by surprise. This ban is based on new evidence that the use of ZnO at medicinal levels poses an unacceptable environmental risk. So if ZnO usage has to be reduced, is banning medicinal use the only option or are there alternatives? This article looks at the current situation, the potential impact of

the proposal to stop medicinal use of ZnO for environmental reasons and finally an alternative solution that may allow for the continued use of ZnO as a medicinal product and all the benefits that can bring while still achieving lower zinc use through the lifetime of the pig.

diarrhea and its widespread use as a prescription only medicine (POM) shows the effectiveness it continues to have in controlling this common post-wean challenge. Although the mechanism by which ZnO elicits this effect is still poorly understood its link to maintaining tight junction integrity indicates its importance in supporting gut health. The effectiveness of ZnO in controlling post-wean diarrhea becomes even more critical as it is playing a significant role in reducing in-feed antibiotic use in pig production. For example, data from one major UK starter feed manufacturer shows veterinary prescriptions for antibiotics in combination with ZnO at medicinal levels has declined, falling from 61% of all UK feed manufactured at the beginning of 2016 to 37% in December 2016. In contrast there has been an increase in ZnO only POMs from 26% to 40% of all feeds manufactured over the same time period. Antibiotic only POMs have remained unchanged at 3.5%. This change in POM’s associated with antibiotics clearly demonstrates the importance ZnO has had in allowing for this rapid reduction in antibiotic use in starter feeds. Any removal of medicinal uses of ZnO may well slow down, if not reverse, the reduction of antibiotic use currently seen as the key focus within the pig industry as the best way of reducing the potential, although limited, risk of antimicrobial resistance.

What is the typical zinc consumption of a pig from wean to finish? In the current situation and based on a typical feeding program with zinc fed at 2500 mg/kg for 14 days post-weaning followed by feed legislation levels (150 mg/kg to 30 kg, 120 mg/kg from 30 kg to slaughter) a pig would be expected to consume approximately 40g of zinc from wean to finish (Table 1).

Is a stringent reduction of the limits of zinc oxide really necessary? Perhaps other solutions are possible too.

Current situation In most EU member states ZnO is licensed as a medicinal product for use at 3.1 kg/t feed to provide 2500 mg/kg zinc for 14 days post- weaning. It is licensed for the treatment and control of post-weaning


CVMP proposal for a ban Following new environmental concerns around zinc, a proposal was made by the CVMP on the 9th

December, to withdraw the medicinal

use of ZnO. In effect, this would reduce maximum dietary zinc levels from 2500 to 150 mg/kg from weaning to 14 days post-weaning. This would reduce the amount of zinc consumed from wean to finish pig by 23%, a reduction from 40g to 31g per pig (Table 1). This assumes that there is no impact on performance from the removal of ZnO at the medicinal level but it could be speculated that the withdrawal of zinc oxide could have a negative effect on pig welfare through

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