Pig farmers urged to take part in important zinc oxide study

Researchers are encouraging pig producers to take part in a new zinc oxide study
Researchers are encouraging pig producers to take part in a new zinc oxide study

Pig farmers are being urged to help researchers look into the impact of the removal of zinc oxide at medicinal levels from piglet diets.

The shelf life for any remaining zinc oxide stores expires at the end of June following the withdrawal of regulatory authorisation due to environmental concerns.

The Veterinary Medicines Agency granted the pig sector a two-year transition period, starting from June 2022 and ending later this month.

As part of the new study, researchers will use their findings from 24 participating commercial herds in the UK, plus data from a wider producer questionnaire.

Their aim is to provide a ‘live barometer' of piglet health across farms during and beyond the transitional withdrawal period.

To reach the wider industry and gain a deeper understanding of the situation, an online anonymous survey is open to all UK pig producers.

So far, more than 1,500 pen faecal samples have been collected from the participating herds.

Using state of the art molecular methods, the research will identify the effects of zinc withdrawal on post-weaning diarrhoea, key pathogens, changes to the gut microbiome and AMR on the samples.

Dr Deborah Hoyle, a vet based at the Roslin Institute, explained that the research will identify the current pathogen strains causing disease in the herds studied, which will be of benefit to vaccine preventative strategies.

She said: "The project seeks to enhance our knowledge of changes in the gut microbiome when exposed to zinc, with the goal of promoting improved outcomes during and after piglet weaning.

"For example, through dietary management or development of pre and pro-biotic supplements that might achieve the same beneficial microbiome balance, in the absence of zinc."

The research is being carried out by a consortium from University of Edinburgh, Queen’s University Belfast, APHA, Scotland’s Rural College, University of Surrey, Edinburgh Napier University and feed company AB Neo.

The online survey closes for responses on 28 June.