How to cope with piglet demedication in 2022?
High concentrations of zinc oxide have been used for many years as a welcome supplement to antibiotics to prevent post-weaning diarrhoea in piglets. Recently, however, there has been increasing concern about the use of antibiotics in pig production. On the one hand, this is due to the occurrence of antibiotic resistance in pigs and its possible transfer to humans, who also rely on antibiotics to treat serious bacterial infections. On the other hand, there is also an increasing understanding of ecotoxity, among other things, which has led to the European Commission’s decision to ban the use of therapeutic concentrations of zinc oxide in feed throughout the European Union as of 26 June 2022.
Since EU members states may determine the length of the transitional period, the end of the marketing authorisation varies from country to country. Therefore, very quickly after the European Commission’s announcement, the Netherlands decided to withdraw the marketing authorisation of Gutal®, the only zinc oxide-based veterinary product authorised for use in the Netherlands, and to ban its use from May 2018. Other countries have already followed, such as Belgium and France.
This meant that in these countries, together with our customers, we could prepare them step by step and enable them to switch to production without medicinal zinc. This enables us to share our field experience with our customers in the countries still facing this challenge. Indeed, in addition to the challenge of eliminating medicinal zinc, they are also facing with another challenge: the new EU Regulations on the use of antibiotics that will come into effect from 28 January 2022. The main objective of Regulations 2019/4 and 2019/6 is to ban the routine use of antibiotics and (preventive) group treatments.
Earlyfeed is known in the market for its cost-effective solutions and innovative concepts to support gut health and thus reduce the use of antimicrobial agents. One example is the well-known product Aromabiotic®, a patented specific blend of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). At Earlyfeed, we are convinced that the key to successfully banning medicinal zinc and reducing the use of antibiotics requires an integrated approach. That is why we have launched the ‘Aim For Zero’ programme together with Agrimprove. This is a 3-in-1 concept which includes comprehensive advice with a focus on three pillars: management, nutrition and the application of innovative solutions.
Good farrowing house management is vital
The farrowing house is important for a profitable and healthy production unit and is also the starting point of the ‘Aim-For-Zero programme’. Rapidly evolving genetics in pig production means bigger litter sizes and, as a result, the piglets also have less access to colostrum and milk; consequently the gut not only develops less well, but also less efficiently. A well-developed gut and gut microflora are vital for problem-free weaning. This is very clear when we look at the relative ease with which 26-day-old piglets are weaned, compared to early weaned piglets. Teaching piglets to eat from 2 days after birth is vital for a successful and healthy weaning process. The active support of all piglets will contribute to a healthy microbiome on the one hand and ensure a well-developed gut on the other. The gut must be able to absorb nutrients optimally and prevent problems with gut microflora and health. To stimulate piglets’ gut maturation, Earlyfeed has launched the START+ concept. This concept, based on the action of prebiotic components in sow colostrum and milk, will stimulate early gut maturation. Good farrowing house management will deliver more benefits than ever in zinc oxide- and antibiotic-free production.
Keeping the piglets healthy is the most important thing in the first 14 days after weaning and that is exactly what the ‘Aim-For-Zero programme’ focuses on. Questions that must be asked include: What factors can we change? What are the genetics on the production unit? What is the unit’s health status? Can drinking water quality and climate conditions be improved? How are the piglets housed after weaning, and how can we reduce these stressors with feed under these conditions? It is important to take a look at the bigger picture! It is much more than simply suppressing Coli; it is about supporting healthy gut microflora and maintaining the barrier function of the gut. With Vitastart Zero we offer a nutritional solution, next to our nutritional feed advice, that focusses on a safe start for piglets. To achieve this, on the one hand, we look at the use of inert and fermentable fibres, the checking of the acid-binding capacity, the use of specific energy sources for the gut microflora and microvilli, and pay close attention to protein digestibility. On the other hand, the concept also includes the innovative solution Vitazero. This functional feed ingredient combines the antibacterial effect of MCFAs, the proven antioxidant effect of plant polyphenols and the pathogen binding effect of specially selected functional fibres. At the same time, we continue to stimulate feed intake which is vital to ensure safety. To do this we use tasty and easily digestible raw materials such as extruded grains.
Looking forward to 2022!
Now, about 2.5 years after the official launch, the many positive field trials show that weaning without medicinal zinc and antibiotics is very feasible, provided that all the different aspects are managed correctly. Currently, we estimate that approximately 8.5 million piglets within the EU have been successfully weaned using the ‘Aim-For-Zero programme’. But this figure is only 5.5% of the pig population in the EU. However, it should be noted that the EU countries with a high sow and piglet populations have not already implemented either the EU legislation on the zinc oxide ban or on the use of antibiotics. With Earlyfeed, you can already anticipate the stricter EU legislation, with effective start date of 2022. With a sound management and the use of right nutritional solutions such as Vitastart Zero, there is no need to compromise on technical performance and the economic results linked to this.
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