Farmer Focus: Will zinc ban increase our antibiotics use?

Zinc oxide or the threatened removal of it in our early piglet diets are causing quite a stir within the industry.

Historically all our weaner creep feeds have had zinc in to help establish the piglets gut. We have trialled and continue to do trials with half-rate levels and no zinc in the diets to see what effect it may have when it is banned.

It is still very early days, but the units we have trialled it on seem to be doing OK. However, like I have mentioned already, the environment plays a huge part in pigs’ health, so we need to run this trial for a longer time to see if it’s going to be possible without increasing our antibiotics use.

See also: Read more from all our Farmer Focus writers

Varied weather is challenging

As I sit here, it is trying to snow outside. We really are having some strange weather – not ideal for pigs.

The variation we have been seeing (lovely warm days and cold nights) and now the winds and snow make it hard for the pigs to adjust.

They are OK if it’s cold all the time or hot all the time, but the changes really do affect them. But as much as every farmer wishes we could change the weather, we can’t. So it comes down to management and adjusting to what is thrown at us.

Cracked health conundrum

A while ago I wrote about a looseness problem we were experiencing and the high levels of sulphate we found at one farm in the water samples.

We have since found out that the sulphate and magnesium in the feed could be reacting and causing a looseness problem, so we have reduced the levels in our feed and so far, pigs look a little firmer.

Dry weather has also arrived and everything is looking better, so I can’t be 100% certain this has cured our problem, but I’m much happier with what I’m seeing.

Sometimes it’s annoying – you spend so long looking into a problem and then, for what seems like absolutely no reason at all, the problem goes away and you’re none the wiser.

This can happen a lot in pigs, probably because they are affected so much by such small changes and environmental aspects that are out of our control. It keeps us on our toes.

Kate Morgan and family farm 1,700 sows indoors in East Yorkshire and 1,200 outdoor in North Yorkshire, taking all the progeny through to slaughter.