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Zinc oxide ban: An alternative plan?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


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, writes AB Vista's Dr Pete Wilcock.


Is a stringent reduction of the limits of zinc oxide really necessary? Perhaps other solutions are possible too. Watch this video on how phytase superdosing can reduce zinc levels without affecting pig production

Looking for alternatives

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?  

A novel approach

It has been established through the published literature that phytate has the potential to bind zinc at a pH 4 to 6 reducing the effectiveness of ZnO in the diet. A novel approach to zinc reduction is now open to EU Member States through the destruction of phytate with high levels or superdosing levels of phytase without negatively affecting performance. This application has been well studied and shows that typically in the presence of superdosing phytase the level of zinc from ZnO can be reduced from 2500 mg/kg to 1750 mg/kg without having a negative effect on performance as measured by gain and FCR.
Furthermore the data has shown that superdosing phytase lowers the level of post-wean diarrhoea which is attributed to the increased effectiveness of ZnO due to the lower levels of dietary phytate attained with the use of superdosing phytase.

Working together

This research has opened up the opportunity of maintaining or improving post-weaning pig performance while lowering pharmacological levels of dietary ZnO to 1500 mg/kg. Indeed this concept has already been exploited by a number of veterinary surgeons working with swine companies which are looking at the prudent and responsible use of ZnO in starter diets as outlined earlier. Increasingly feed companies and veterinarians are working together to balance the key role that  medicinal levels of ZnO has in terms of growth performance and health with the ability to lower Zn levels with phytase superdosing to mitigate environmental concerns.
Is this a potential solution whereby pig health and welfare can be maintained, environmental concerns are met, and all parties involved meet their target goals? We think so.

More information

Read ‘Zinc Oxide ban: An alternative plan?’ written by AB Vista, Primary Diets and AB Neo, recently published in Pig Progress
Contact your AB Vista representative

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