Weaning piglets without therapeutic zinc oxide: IT’S POSSIBLE AND EFFICIENT!

Using high level of zinc oxide in piglet feeds is no longer a solution in the European Union and antibiotic reduction is more pressing than ever. To meet these challenges, pig producers must consider a full approach to pull through and maintain high level of performances.

Anne-Sophie Valable
Monogastric Product Manager
CCPA Group

In France, the use high level of zinc oxide in piglets’ feeds was not authorized for a major part of the two last decades, until 2016. As a result, it was estimated that less than 15% of weaned piglets received a diet with 2500 ppm of zinc oxide. This situation in its domestic market has led the CCPA Group to gain expertise on how to manage weaning without medication.

This field-savvy experience has taught that a total approach is needed to succeed with three pillars. The first one is the feed formulation and the nutritional expertise to provide a secured and high-quality complete feed. Then, as feed formulation cannot do it all, the use of phytogenic solutions helps to finalize reaching the complete digestive security. The last pillar involves farm management practices, including biosecurity or sanitary status. These criteria should be checked and improved if needed to move confidently towards the withdrawal of therapeutic zinc oxide and any type of medication added into the feed. CCPA strategy covers the process from the feed up to the farm in the demedication context.

Farmers who weaned naturally must work with a secured feed formulation, appropriate feed solutions and the right farm management altogether.

Weaning is a highly critical period in pig management, often associated with diarrhoea, digestive problems, and growth delays. Medications as antibiotics or therapeutical zinc oxide, represent efficient solutions to manage this gut health issue. Without them, feed formulation needs to be revised to offer a highly digestible and concentrated feed with high-quality raw materials. The first key is to lowered crude protein content without compromising growth with finely selected protein sources.

The CCPA Group approach goes further. The piglet digestive tract is immature. Thus, to not challenged it even more, formulators need to work with proper raw materials qualification and selection. To achieve this, CCPA continuously run analysis on its laboratory. Today, this expertise gathers knowledge on raw materials quality, among others on protein, energy, and dairy-based sources and about the different processes applied on raw materials. New analyses are developed to keep enhancing raw materials characterization and be used as feed formulation criteria. Lastly, acid binding capacity and cooking rate of starch sources have been added into the CCPA piglet formulation specifications.

CCPA global approach has been widely spread and successful in the field since 2011. In trials, CCPA feed outperformed competitors, also non-medicated, with up to 50 g/d in average daily gain, a feed conversion ratio decreased by 0.15 points and a reduction by 50% of individual treatment.

High level of growth and health are achievable without high level of zinc oxide in the prestarter feed.

CCPA Group expertise has highlighted that even the best feed formulation cannot ensure a complete digestive security. That is why the use of additional feed solutions is necessary. According to this vision, IMMAX was developed to helps alleviate the multiple weaning challenges. In the gut, three systems ensure the digestive security and are linked together by multiple cross-relationships: the gut flora, the gut epithelium with its structure and immunity and the gut wall balance to limit water flow into the lumen. Numerous literatures confirmed that a solution which only target one of this system is not enough to completely reach a safe weaning. As a result, IMMAX offers a protection on all of them thanks to a combination of plant extracts and a prebiotic source. Plant extracts have been proven to enhance gut integrity in the literature. CCPA own in vitro trials has demonstrated that Scutellaria baïcalensis decrease the gene expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. When included in the feed, IMMAX led to a reduction of the blood oxidative stress index, thus the piglets were better equipped to face oxidative stress. This index was calculated as the ratio between Hydrogen Peroxide and Biological Antioxidant Potential (i.e., the ratio between the level of oxidation and the level of protection). The second system to watch is the gut wall, with the risk of hypersecretion of water in the lumen leading to secretory diarrhoea. Curcuma, Scutellaria baïcalensis and green tea extracts have the capacity to inhibit the activation of chloride channels of the gut mucosa and preventing this high secretion of water in the lumen. Promote the beneficial flora is also crucial. Sodium gluconate in IMMAX acts as a prebiotic and advantages to Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. This action is also positive for gut epithelium with the measure of increased acetic and butyric acids concentrations, confirmed by CCPA experimental trial.

Figure 1: Faecal intensity score in prestarter phase.

Thanks to trial in an experimental station, IMMAX was proven to reduced faecal intensity score compared to control treatment, proving its effect on digestive comfort (Figure 1). When phasing out medication, it is important to not only guarantee piglet health but also piglet growth. IMMAX did not compromise the performances with a feed conversion ratio lower than the control diet and comparable to the medicated feed in the post-weaning phase (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Feed conversion ratio in the post-weaning phase.

Farm management is a cornerstone to ensures safe weaning and helps animals express their maximum growth potential with a secured and high-end medication-free feed. This management can be divided in five main topics. The first one is the right watch of the sanitary status. Without medication, feed does not and will never be equal to a feed with zero treatments in the barn. Diseases must be cured and thus, high level of animals’ monitoring and the right treatment and vaccination plan must be implemented. The second main topic is biosecurity with the goal to prevent pathogens entering the barn and passing from one stage to another. The other topics gather water quality, stock management and last by not least, farmer’s implication to implement new practices and adjust its use of medication.

To succeed in reducing medication, a thorough and adapted assessment of the farm practices is needed. To allow that, the CCPA Group has developed DEMEUS, an expert mobile app for pig farm nutritionists. The app helps to assess the potential success of the farm with non-supplemented piglet feed thanks to a quick and precise questionnaire around the key farm management features. Directly, the nutritionist gets a clear picture of the farm situation, highlights the strengths and enhancement leads. Then, it provides personalized advice on the adapted nutrition to maintain performance and health without in-feed antibiotics. This tool was validated both on the field with farmers currently using medicated feed or not, and by more than 30 European experts (nutritionists and veterinarians) working for feed manufacturers and national institutes. With DEMEUS, nutritionists get an efficient and practical tool on the field to ensure the success of its non-medicated piglets feeds thanks to optimal breeding conditions.

About Anne-Sophie Valable
Anne-Sophie Valable joined the CCPA Group in 2018. She holds a PhD in poultry nutrition, which she completed between INRA in France and Laval University in Canada. She worked for several years in the swine department, where her main area of expertise was piglet nutrition and management. She has recently taken the position of Monogastric product manager for the Group where she puts her technical knowledge along with her creativity at the service of the CCPA feed solutions’ success on the market.