5 zinc oxide alternatives for pigs compared

In less than three years, UK pig producers will need to know how to prevent post-weaning diarrhoea in piglets without using zinc oxide.

The European Union has ruled that from 2022, the high-purity form of this mineral powder – 80% zinc and only available by prescription – can no longer be used therapeutically. Zinc will only be permitted as a nutritional component at levels of 150 parts per million (ppm)

Useful alternatives must be available by then and several are already being marketed, says pig nutritionist Phil Baynes.

See also: Expert tips for reducing feed waste on your pig farm

“As with most alternatives, these are very farm specific – it is what is going to work for you,” Dr Baynes suggests.

“In reality, there is currently no single product that is able to replace zinc oxide as an effective control for post-weaning scours. It will be a combination of increased biosecurity, vaccination programmes, improved environmental management and water acidification that holds the major keys.”

Manufacturers say they have come up with some viable alternatives to using zinc oxide therapeutically, mostly based on killing or capturing bacteria before they enter the pig’s gut. Some of these products are added to feed and others to water.

Farmers Weekly takes a look at how they work and their cost.

1. Actigen by Alltech

How is it given?
A feed-based product either included in a premix, added at the mill or on-farm mill and mix systems.

Quantity given depends on a pig farm’s pathogenic load but, as a general guide, 1kg/t in the creep ration, 500g/t in the link/grower ration and 200g/t in the finishing ration.

How does it work?
Prevents pathogenic bacteria colonising by occupying the receptor sites of that bacteria. This stops the bacteria attaching themselves to the sugars on the cells that line the surface of the gut wall and reproducing.

The bacteria are bound in the pig’s gut, enhancing nutrient use, and remain in this state in excreted faeces to prevent them infecting other pigs.

How effective is it? What evidence is there for its success?
Actigen is an established product in sow diets, but so far Alltech has only conducted its own on-farm trials for use in post-weaning situations.

Even so, Jason Evans, Alltech’s business manager for swine, says the results are promising.

“In one farm trial there was a 2.5:1 return on investment through a reduction in antibiotics use and mortalities,” he says.

How much does it cost?
About £5.80/kg – expect to use 7kg in a creep ration for every 1,000 pigs.

Further information
07713 230 286

2. HiZox by SENS Nutrition

Pile of Hizox


How is it given?
Up to 150g/t included in post-weaning feed formulations

How does it work?
Chemically, HiZox is zinc oxide, but the manufacturing process gives it a larger surface area than standard zinc oxide. This means it falls within permitted levels and its manufacturer claims it is more effective on a gram-for-gram basis than standard zinc oxide.

How effective is it? What evidence is there for its success?
Steve Ladbrooke of SENS Nutrition says it should be regarded as “one of the tools in the box’’ for reducing reliance on zinc oxide.

“Every pig unit is different – in some cases it may be possible to replace prescription levels of zinc oxide and in other cases reduce the levels,” he says. 

There have been several commercial and research trials and it is already used in piglet feed formulations in the UK, Europe and Asia.

How much does it cost?
For every tonne of feed given, HiZox adds £2.50-£3.00 to the cost

Further information
07595 025110

3. Vitazero by Nuscience

How is it given?
Added to the weaning diet

How does it work?
A combination of medium-chain fatty acids kills or captures bacteria and their toxins while protecting the barrier of the pig’s gut and its immune system.

Bacteria are bound and secreted, reducing infection pressure in the intestine.

How effective is it? What evidence is there for its success?
Nuscience says tests have shown Vitazero can replace zinc oxide and the antibiotic colistin in the weaning feed, but not in isolation. Its effectiveness depends on an overall programme encompassing nutrition and management procedures.

In a trial involving 6,097 piglets (Danbred cross Duroc), animals were followed from weaning at 7kg to 25kg of bodyweight.

Performances of the 3,058 piglets fed pharmacological doses of zinc oxide in a five-month period were compared with the 3,039 piglets given feed incorporating Vitazero.

Piglets in the Vitazero group achieved 1.1% higher body weight at the end of the growth period without affecting mortality rates.

In another trial, there was a 1.04% incidence of diarrhoea in pigs in the Vitazero group compared with 3.13% in those given zinc oxide.

How much does it cost?
About £7.50/kg

Further details
Forum Products 01737 857 700

4. Genex Weaner by Anpario

Genex Weaner

Genex Weaner

How is it given?
A granular powder for mixing in feed at a recommended inclusion of 3-4kg/t, depending on a unit’s health status.

Best used in first diets – creep or starter – until piglets are about 15kg bodyweight.

How does it work?
Genex Weaner is a blend of formic, propionic acid and plant extracts on a specialised mineral carrier system that protects the active ingredients through feed processing.

These actives are steadily released in the gut and have beneficial effects on gut microflora.

By helping to manage the bacterial population, there should be good initial intakes post weaning and the risk of potentially pathogenic bacteria migrating into the upper digestive tract is prevented.

How effective is it? What evidence is there for its success?
Anpario carried out a trial at the University of Manitoba, replacing a 3kg/t therapeutic level of zinc oxide with Genex Weaner at 4kg/t for 28 days from weaning.

At eight days post weaning the piglets were orally challenged with E coli.

There was an increase in average daily liveweight gain of 73g in the group fed Genex Weaner, compared with the control diet, and 30g/day when compared with the zinc oxide treatment group.

“We have commercial customers already using Genex Weaner in newly weaned piglets in the absence of zinc oxide and we have recently worked with UK vet groups on commercial units exploring zinc replacement, with positive results,” says Heidi Hall, product technical manager for swine at Anpario.

How much does it cost?
At current prices, about £8/treated tonne, or less than 1p a piglet a day.

Available direct from Anpario through the company’s new direct sales channel shop@www.anpariodirect.co.uk and through current distributor channels

Further information
01909 537 380 

5. Selko pH by Trouw Nutrition

How is it given?
Added to drinking water

How does it work?
Using water acidification to protect gut health is not new, but the partial buffering of Selko pH allows it to both balance the microbiota in the gut and manage the growth of bacteria in the water.

Buffering means some of the acids are in a bound form, so they are active in the gut, but not in the water.

How effective is it? What evidence is there for its success?
Trouw says the product is designed to simultaneously target the withdrawal of zinc oxide and a reduction in antibiotics use.

The effectiveness of Selko pH was put to the test at the Danish research institute SEGES in a feeding trial incorporating Trouw feed additives as an alternative to zinc oxide for weaned pigs.

Reduced treatments were required for diarrhoea compared with control groups given feed with and without zinc oxide.

How much does it cost?
Trouw would not disclose details of the price and instead advised farmers to get in touch directly for quotes.

Further information
01335 341 100