Antibiotic-Free and Zero Zinc Diets for Piglets: Hankkija’s solutions with Progut Extra®-1

Diets and ingredients that support  active piglet immunity and counter pathogen pressure are invaluable. During the transition from sow’s milk to solid feed, the underdeveloped digestion tract faces challenges, yet dietary enhancement facilitates quicker adaptation to solid feed.

Hankkija’s Pioneering Approach: Nurturing Piglet Health through Antibiotic-Free and Zero Zinc Feeds

Since 1999, Hankkija has championed antibiotic-free piglet feeds, with minimal use of medical zinc. Years of dietary research have perfected our ability to support gut development. Our feeds, enriched with patented yeast hydrolysate Progut Extra®, have proven to modulate immunity and microbiota, enhancing piglet performance and well-being.

Transitioning to antibiotic-free and zero zinc diets for piglets necessitates a paradigm shift from traditional feeding strategies. The use of in-feed antibiotics and medical zinc for weaning has long been associated with maximizing growth. However, a more holistic approach is essential for successful antibiotic-free feeding. Below are key strategies we’ve embraced at Hankkija to achieve this goal:

Feeding Strategies for Antibiotic-Free and Zero Zinc Diets:

  • Reduce Protein Levels: The ability of young piglets to digest protein is limited. To curb harmful protein fermentation and the growth of pathogenic bacteria, we’ve reduced protein levels in Hankkija’s weaner feeds from 20-22% to 16-17% post-antibiotics. This strategic protein reduction minimizes diarrhea risk and supports healthier gut function.
  • Introduce Organic Acids: Organic acids play a pivotal role in supporting digestion. By adding organic acids to piglet feed, we create an optimal stomach pH that aids protein digestion. This contributes to improved nutrient absorption and overall digestive health.
  • Utilize NSP Enzymes: Non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) can hinder nutrient absorption. Incorporating NSP enzymes into the feed helps piglets digest their feed more efficiently, enhancing nutrient utilization and reducing digestive stress.
  • Limit High Fat Additions: Piglets have a limited ability to digest fats. High fat content in weaner diets can overwhelm their digestive systems, leading to adverse effects. By avoiding excessive fat additions, we ensure smoother digestion and overall wellbeing.
  • Optimize Particle Size: Fine particle sizes in weaner feeds can hinder proper gut development. Our strategy involves using rolled cereals to increase feed particle size. This modification promotes gut health, ensuring a more resilient digestive tract.
  • Incorporate Insoluble Fiber: Scientific research highlights the benefits of insoluble fiber in piglet diets. This addition enhances gut health and equips piglets to navigate the challenges of weaning with greater ease.
  • Promote Feed Intake: Poor feed intake during the critical post-weaning period can compromise piglet health. Allowing for creep feed and maximizing intake helps piglets adapt more effectively to solid feed, improving overall feed consumption and gut health.
Immune defense of the body. Attack on antigens 3D illustration

Nurturing Immunity through Progut Extra®

Progut Extra®, our yeast hydrolysate product, modulates piglet immunity by containing immune-stimulating compounds like β-glucan, mannan oligosaccharides, and chitin structures. Its increased water-solubility aids interaction with immune receptors, elevating IP-10 chemoattractant production and T-lymphocytes. This boosts immunoglobulin responses, as seen in the Schothorst trial (Molist et al. 2014), where Progut® improved feed conversion, elevated antibodies, and enhanced immune readiness for overcoming challenges.

Fighting Pathogenic E. coli with Progut Extra®

Pathogenic E. coli is a common cause of piglet diarrhea. Progut Extra® effectively reduces E. coli attachment to gut mucus, curbing diarrhea frequency. Backed by scientific research, Progut® three-dimensional structures inhibit E. coli’s binding capacity. A study at Aarhus University (Jensen et al. 2013) validated Progut® effectiveness, and showed a significantly reduced E. coli shedding and diarrhea scores in weaned piglets. These findings exemplify the success of our antibiotic-free and zero zinc feeding approach.

Figure 1 and 2: A study at Aarhus University, Denmark (Jensen et al. 2013), investigated Progut® effect on E. coli in piglets. Progut® was added to piglet feed, compared to a control group. After weaning, piglets were challenged with E. coli. Those receiving Progut® had significantly reduced E. coli shedding (P=0.026, figure 1) and lower diarrhea scores (figure 2), showcasing its potential in reducing pathogenic E. coli growth and improving piglet health.

Successful weaning without antibiotics and zinc is achievable by adapting diet composition and structure. A natural approach that enhances piglet health and performance, Progut Extra® paves the way for robust immune maturation, inhibits pathogenic E. coli growth, and improves overall piglet wellbeing during the challenging weaning phase.


  1. Jensen, K., Damgaard, B., Andresen, L., Jørgensen, E. and Carstensen, E. (2013) Prevention of post weaning diarrhea by a Saccharomyces cerevisiae derived product based on whole yeast. In: Animal Feed Science and Technology 183: 29–39.
  2. Molist, F., van Eerden E., Parmentier, H.K. and Vuorenmaa, J. (2014) Effects of inclusion of hydrolyzed yeast on the immune response and performance of piglets after weaning. In: Animal Feed Science and Technology 195: 136–141.