Home > Pork CRC finds positive link between feeding encapsulated Zinc oxide and a reduction in post-weaning diarrhoea

Pork CRC finds positive link between feeding encapsulated Zinc oxide and a reduction in post-weaning diarrhoea

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Pork CRC  has found a positive link between feeding encapsulated Zinc oxide and reducing post-weaning diarrhoea in piglets.

The results showed the encapsulated product enabled the effective level of Zinc oxide to be reduced 30 fold, offering substantial environmental advantages to Australian pork producers.

To minimise post-weaning growth lag and potential effects of enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), weaner piglets are often treated with high concentrations of Zinc oxide.

Using pharmaceutical levels of Zinc oxide in weaner pig diets is widely accepted as a control measure, due to its cost-effectiveness and proven effects on post-weaning diarrhoea compared to other feed additives and dietary strategies.

However, this option is not a viable long-term solution to the problem of post-weaning diarrhoea, according to Pork CRC supported researcher Dr Jae Kim of the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA).

“There’s concern at the possible toxic effect on the environment of faeces containing high Zinc concentrations,” he said. 

Post-weaning diarrhoea is a major pig health problem in commercial piggeries and is associated with increased morbidity, mortality and high treatment costs. Gut health of weaned piglets is known to be influenced by many factors, including nutritional, physiological and psychological stressors, immune functions, hygienic conditions, intestinal barrier functions and diet composition. Growth check associated with post-weaning diarrhoea also decreases lifetime pig performance.

Some studies have reported no benefit from feeding Zinc oxide, whereas others concluded that while it was an effective treatment for post-weaning diarrhoea there were no definite answers as to how excess dietary Zinc oxide exerted its effects.

Dr Kim said that despite ambiguity around the exact mode of action of Zinc oxide, it was likely it would continue to be used and studied because it was a cost-effective nutritional tool.

Recently, a microencapsulated, lipid-coated Zinc oxide product was released on the market with claims it dramatically decreases inclusion of Zinc oxide (from 2500-3000 ppm to 100 ppm) to achieve the same effect on post-weaning diarrhoea.

Studies by Pork CRC researchers showed inclusion of 100 ppm microencapsulated Zinc oxide suppressed the expression of post-weaning diarrhoea in ETEC challenged and non-challenged pigs, and kept the plasma and faecal Zinc levels equal to those found in pigs fed a control diet without supplemental Zinc oxide.

Results from the Pork CRC research suggest expression of post-weaning diarrhoea can be reduced by supplementing 100 ppm microencapsulated Zinc oxide in the diets of weaner pigs, without compromising faecal Zinc excretion levels.

“Therefore, the microencapsulated Zinc oxide was evaluated as a solution for the environmental issue as well as controlling post-weaning diarrhoea,” Dr Kim said.

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