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Feed additives and nutritional changes can be combined with other strategies to combat post-weaning diarrhoea, says a study. Study outlines alternatives to zinc in pig rations to beat diarrhoea

• Quest to reduce pig diarrhoea

• Work with suppliers to resolve

• Use mix of suitable strategies

Feed additives and nutritional changes can be combined with other strategies to combat post-weaning diarrhoea, says a study.

EU regulations have stopped the production of zinc oxide for therapeutic use – including its inclusion in feed rations to reduce diarrhoea in post-weaned pigs. Any remaining product within the supply chain is expected to be exhausted this summer.

Alternative practices – including nutritional changes, management changes, and improving immune status – can reduce post-weaning diarrhoea and post-weaning mortality, suggests a study by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Alternative options

The rapid evidence assessment (REA) was conducted by the AHDB in conjunction with Scotland’s Rural College and the Pig Veterinary Society ahead of the upcoming ban on zinc supplementation in pigs.

Findings suggest a plethora of alternatives – but the study warns that no single intervention scores as highly on repeatability or reliability as the use of zinc oxide at therapeutic levels to control post-weaning diarrhoea.

The study says no other practices are as effective and inexpensive as zinc oxide in feed at therapeutic levels (2500ppm) in treating post-weaning diarrhoea in pigs. This highlights the need for a multifactorial approach tailored to each farm.

“This work provides a useful tool for the pork industry to navigate the loss of zinc oxide”, says AHDB animal health and welfare scientist Bethan John. Producers, vets and nutritionists should work together to decide the best practice for individual farms.

Gut health

A pig with a well-developed gut is less likely to suffer from post-weaning complications, such as diarrhoea. Reduced post-weaning dips in daily liveweight gain (DLWG) is also reported in piglets with a well-developed gut.

Managing the removal of zinc effectively can be achieved by optimising gut health, maintaining good biosecurity and managimg colostrum effectively, suggests the report. This should be done in well-managed environments, it adds.

Acidification and fermentation can be used to reduce or control the disease-causing microbes that enter pigs’ guts through feed and water – although the AHDB says these techniques require substantial on-farm investment.

Altering the levels of certain nutrients can reduce stress on the developing pig gut. Research suggests reducing crude protein levels in weaner diets can lower the degree of post-weaning drops in performance.