Currently the use of zinc-oxide (ZnO) mixed into the feed in a therapeutic dose (2500–3000 mg Zn per kg of feed) is the least expensive, most effective and most widespread method of preventing post-weaning diarrhoea and oedema disease caused by E. coli in piglets. However, due to the harmful effect of ZnO on the environment, this practice will be banned in the European Union from 26 June 2022. Therefore, the development of ZnO-free alternative feeding strategies capable of maintaining the performance and productivity level previously achieved by ZnO supplementation has become an outstandingly important task for the pig production sector and the feed industry.
This was the main focus of the development activity conducted by Bonafarm-Bábolna Feed Ltd. in the field of piglet nutrition in the past two years. These efforts have resulted in the formulation of our Platinum Zero piglet feeds and, in connection with that, the development of our risk assessment-based nutrition concept which aims to help farmers in adapting this technology to their own production systems.
Relying on the results of the most recent research into the physiology of digestion, during the development of our Platinum Zero piglet feeds free of therapeutic ZnO levels the first step was to reduce the crude protein content of these diets, as this markedly contributes to maintaining the health of the digestive tract and establishing a stable intestinal microflora. It has also been demonstrated that various functional carbohydrate sources (insoluble and fermentable fibres) also play an outstanding role in intestinal integrity. A stable gut flora is essential, as imbalances in the composition of the intestinal microflora directly contribute to the development of numerous diseases and markedly increase the risk of others. In addition to strategies modifying the nutrient content and composition of feeds, there are numerous feed additives (e.g. protected organic acids, medium-chain fatty acids, probiotics, prebiotics, phytogenic feed additives, etc.) that can improve the performance of animals by supporting a healthy intestinal microflora. When elaborating our ZnO-free piglet nutrition concept, we studied the possibility of using such additives, and incorporated the findings into our Platinum Zero piglet feeds.
However, in addition to feeding, the environmental conditions surrounding the animals (e.g. hygiene, management technology) also have a major influence on the composition of the intestinal microbiota. During the introduction of ZnO-free nutrition the identification, survey and evaluation of such factors will help us detect any deficiencies or shortcomings, assess the risks involved and reduce them to an acceptable level. Instead of waiting until the ban of feeding ZnO enters into force, it would be important to assess the relevant risks as soon as possible, as their timely recognition and reduction may provide major benefits for pig farmers in a sector that is moving towards the reduction of antibiotic use, in addition to banning the in-feed use of ZnO.
Our risk assessment-based ZnO-free piglet nutrition concept and the products reflecting that strategy, the Platinum Zero piglet feeds will help pig farmers to maintain performance and productivity under the new conditions.