ZeroZincSummit2022, organized by the Danish Pig Research Centre SEGES and Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, took place in June 22–23 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The topic of the conference was the banning of medical doses of zinc oxide (ZnO) from piglet diets from June 26 onwards. Acting as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent in piglet feeds, many piglet producers have relied on the use of this product for preventing post-weaning diarrhea.  

Hankkija presented a poster titled “Raising weanling piglets without medical doses of zinc: an example from Finland”.

Dr. Hannele Kettunen presenting at the ZeroZincSummit

Background and objectives: Conditions in the nursery and optimized feeding are critical factors in avoiding post-weaning diarrhea (PWD) when raising piglets without medical doses of zinc in the diet. Especially at 3–6 days post-weaning, drought and too low ambient temperature lead to increased feed intake and a higher PWD risk. Here we provide an example of technologies involved in a successful withdrawal of medical zinc from piglet feeds in a commercial sow-piglet operation (Heikkilä Farm, Larjava, Rusko, Finland), in which the smallest 40% of weaned piglets from 3500 sows stay at the home farm. The use of medical doses of zinc in piglet diets was stopped in January 2016.

Technologies: Piglet management is based on top-quality nursery conditions, optimization of feeding, and all-in-all-out concept. The piglets (DanBred genetics, Denmark) get to the nursery at the age of 29–31 days (21–38 days variation) and weight of 6.2 kg. They are housed in compartments of 16 pens (x 5m2) with 70% solid flooring and 30% slatted flooring. The floors are heated by two floor heating units, one for the floor under canopies and the other for the rest of the floor. The canopies are fully automated, equipped with heat lamps (Veng Systems, Denmark), and programmed with different settings for winter and summer periods. The air ventilation system (Fancom BV, The Netherlands) is precise and fitted with air inlets towards canopy roofs, in order to avoid air flow over manure. The slurry cooling system (Alpha Innotec, Germany) is very efficient (winter time ~50W/manure m2). Excellent environmental condition for piglets is necessary also because tails are not docked Finland. Every pen is equipped with plastic chew toys (Bite-Rite, Ikadan, Denmark) and a straw automat.

In the picture, from left to right, are: Juha Tolppanen (Hankkija, nutritionist), Timo Heikkilä (Heikkilä Farm), Tuula Honkamaa (Hankkija, nutritionist), Satu Valkama (Hankkija, product development manager)

Feeding: Good feeding hygiene is invaluable in feeding without high doses of zinc. The liquid feeding system has 40 mm main pipes and 32 mm pipes to the pens. A 2.5 m feeding trough allows adequate space for 12-15 piglets/pen. The Weda Active Cleaning System (WEDA Dammann & Westerkamp GmbH, Germany) for automatic cleaning of the pipes was developed at this farm. There are five feeding phases for piglets from 6 to 32 kg. Trough emptying time is measured by sensors to adjust feed quantity. During the 4-day transition from prestarter to starter diets (days 3–6 post-weaning), feed intake is softly reduced by altering the taste of the feed, in order to reduce PWD risk. The other dietary transitions take place gradually over 7 days. Feed is optimized for reduced protein and supplemented with synthetic amino acids, to ensure maximal amino acid digestibility. Calcium levels are kept low to reduce the buffering capacity of diets. The feeds (Hankkija Oy) are acidified with a blend of organic acids, including supplementation by lactic acid (Pekoni Lakta-Happo, Finlactic Oy, Finland) at the farm. The intestinal functions of piglets are supported by two special products: yeast hydrolysate Progut® and resin acid-based Progres® (both from Hankkija Oy).

Results and conclusions: The technology and feeding have worked very well and there has been no need to re-start using high doses of zinc. The health and condition of piglets are consistently very good in this nursery, with the following growth performance indicators: 6–32 kg, ADG 480–490 g, FCR 1.55–1.65 kg/kg. The health problems, when present, usually originate from the pre-weaning period. The system has been running in its present form for six years, and it has proven that it is fully possible to maintain good piglet performance without medical doses of zinc in the diet. Investing in top-quality technology has paid back in good piglet performance on this farm.

Reference: Hannele Kettunen, Shah Hasan, Marjut Suokanto, Satu Valkama, Johanna Daka, Juhani Vuorenmaa, Timo Heikkilä: Raising weanling piglets without medical doses of zinc: an example from Finland. Abstract in: ZeroZincSummit2022, Copenhagen, Denmark, 22–23 June, 2022.