It is possible to wean without using therapeutic zinc and this strategy has the potential to increase average productivity in climate-controlled units. It is no open and shut matter, however, because increasing the use of antibiotics is not an acceptable alternative either. Depending on the infection status of herds, herd productivity will fluctuate more than we are used to, and we should also expect higher feed costs, as we have to accept dedicated nutritional solutions.
Weaning without using a high dose of zinc has become an issue, in part because we expect that we will have to anticipate a stop for therapeutic doses sometime in the future, in part because some of the new labelling schemes require that pigs are fed only at levels that are within feed legislation.
At present, there are ongoing efforts on many fronts to develop new feed concepts and additives to help us achieve the goal of weaning without therapeutic zinc and maintain a low level of antibiotic use.
Based on international research, Vitfoss is continuously working to improve its efficient feed solutions. Experiments are continuously being conducted in our experimental farm in France and at a Danish pig farm to look at different concepts and additives. The lessons learned from these experiments and from our customers in general are incorporated on an ongoing basis into our customised feed solutions.
Many have an opinion of how a feed compound for this purpose should be composed. The challenge, however, is to find solutions which suit the individual herd. Solutions that work well in some herds may be less efficient in others. An essential aspect of the strategy should be to ensure feed intake and early intestinal maturation through a targeted weaning effort.
In general, these concepts are focused on optimising nutrition and reducing the pressure on the animal. This can be done by improving the function of the intestinal wall and the resistance to pathogens, modulating the intestinal microflora by means of acids and probiotics as well as optimising the fibre fraction. In addition, work is being done to optimise the supply of vitamins and minerals, feed digestibility and the admixture of a number of additives based on extracts of aquatic and terrestrial plants. Using enzymes differently could turn out to relieve the pressure on the pig. A number of studies show that high doses of phytase can also stimulate piglet growth, in addition to the general effect on phosphorous digestibility.