The European Commission has dropped plans for a drastic reduction in permitted copper levels in piglet feed, with the UK pig industry calling it a "major win".
The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed has agreed revised maximum permitted limits (MPLs) of copper compounds for piglet feed at its latest meeting.
The outcome is extremely favourable for the pig sector, given that the initial proposal was to reduce the level to 25mg/kg for all ages of pigs, largely in order to protect soils from elevated concentrations of heavy metals.
After more than a year of debate on the new limits, the Committee finally agreed that the MPLs should be reduced from the existing level of 170mg/kg to 150mg/kg up to four weeks after weaning, 100mg/kg to eight weeks after weaning and then to 25mg/kg.
The National Pig Association (NPA) called the move a "major win" for the UK pig industry, specifically for piglet health.
NPA Allied Industry Group member Paul Toplis warned of the dangers to piglet health of reducing MPLs to 25mg/kg.
“Alongside allies from the EU pig and animal feed sectors, we argued that such a dramatic reduction in copper limits, coming at the same time as the industry faces the loss of zinc oxide and pressure to reduce antibiotic use, would have made it very difficult to control post-weaning diarrhoea in piglets,” he said.
“We focused on AMR as the priority, fighting for copper retention to enable producers to continue their impressive reductions in antibiotic use.”
Mr Toplis estimated that the potential cost to producers of the original proposals being implemented was £1-2/pig as a result of reduced performance and piglet health, meaning the decision has potentially saved the industry up to £18 million.
The NPA explains that numerous studies have shown supplementing diets with copper is beneficial to piglet health.