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Researchers urge pig producers to take part in zinc oxide study

4th Jun 2024 / By Alistair Driver

Pig producers are being urged to take part in extensive scientific research 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 two-year transition period granted by the Veterinary Medicines Agency in June 2022.

The multi-faceted study will use findings from 24 participating commercial herds from around the UK plus data from a wider producer questionnaire, to provide a ‘live barometer' of piglet health across UK farms during and beyond the transitional withdrawal period.

To contribute

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

The study

Running from 2022 to 2027, the research is being carried out by a consortium from University of Edinburgh, Queen’s University Belfast, Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), University of Surrey, Edinburgh Napier University and feed company AB Neo.

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 and microbial epidemiologist based at the Roslin Institute, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, 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.

"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," she said.