For more than five years, Gitte Jessen has produced zinc-free piglets. After weaning over 120,000 piglets, the Danish Pig Producer has compiled her most valuable advice.
Gitte Jessen runs the day to day management of Rosenlund Pig Production situated in the South of Denmark. The farm houses 700 Danish Genetics sows, producing 30-kilo piglets for export. The farm employs five and a half farmworkers in total, including Gitte.
Gitte is educated in farming and has worked with cows for several years, while husband Thomas took care of their pig production. She was considering entering into a new line of business when the family agreed that the farm would perform better with Gitte running the pig production and with Thomas in charge of the feed.
Next to the sow farm, the Jessen couple has another business helping farmers find and eliminate leakage current.
In 2016, Rosenlund started a production concept called OUA-piglets, meaning that the production had to be free of zinc and antibiotics.
THE GREATEST CONCERN WAS WEANING DIARRHOEA
Gittes biggest concerns – before removing zinc – were the risks of an increase in piglet diarrhoea and antibiotics.
And so, the hunt began for alternative feed to support piglet health during the weaning period. The family was advised, by the local external feed advisor, to take a closer look at a dietary protein supplement to stabilise digestive disturbances*. The protein supplement consisted of fermented rapeseed – also named EP100 – to be added as a supplement to the weaning feed.
Gitte added the rapeseed protein EP100 and the soy protein EP200 to the weaning and starter feed and then started weaning zinc-free piglets.
SHIFTING BACK TO CONVENTIONAL PIGLET PRODUCTION
Due to lack of demand for OUA production, the family shifted the production back to conventional pig production.
But one thing remained unchanged; feeding without zinc in the weaning feed.
Because production was going pretty well without zinc;
”We haven’t done much besides including EP100 and EP200, and we knew that it would be a regulatory requirement at some point in time.”
says Gitte when she is asked how she prepared for zinc-free weaning.
Gitte also tried acidifying the water to lower the pH but stopped adding acid along with the milk cup system. Partly due to the cost of acid and milk powder and partly because the piglets were doing fine without:
”The piglets weighs around 7 kilos at weaning, and the sows lactate about 32 to 33 days”.
Rosenlund Pig Production has since 2016 weaned 120,000 to 130,000 zinc-free piglets. A performance that both the family and the employees are pretty proud of:
”The veterinarian says that we have very good-looking piglets, and the employees think it’s exiting to be a bit ahead”.
Image: Gitte Jessen uses EP100 and EP200 in her weaning feed.
GITTES MOST VALUABLE ADVICE FOR ZINC-FREE WEANING
Although Gitte is modest when it comes to her abilities, she does have a few words of advice to pass on for pig producers about to remove zinc:
Routines – perform the same tasks at the same time every day
Check the sow, so you know, she is ready to take care of the piglets after farrowing
Make sure that all sucklings receive colostrum before adjusting the litter size
Take good care of the sow, and she will take good care of the suckling piglets
Gittes best advice for zinc-free weaning is to make sure that the sow is doing well:
”A good mother has good piglets. If you take care of the sow, she will take good care of the sucklings”.
she says and continues:
”We always chech the sow around the time of farrowing, take her temperature, check that she stands up and eats. When the sow has farrowed, the piglets are placed in the covered creep area, until the sow has finished eating. Next, the smallest of piglets are introduces to the colostrum, followed by the rest of the litter. We do not even out the litters before late morning”.
Image: Pernille (left) and Gitte (right) ensure that the environment is calm during farrowing and the days after, so the piglets get off to a good start.
ZINC-FREE WEANING IS FAR FROM EASY FOR EVERYONE
For the Jessen-family, zinc-free weaning has been pretty straightforward, but that doesn’t mean that all pig producers will have an easy task when removing zinc, says advisor at European Protein, Pia Sørensen:
”Some pig producers are able to wean without changing their feed or management. Others will go through turbulent periods with fluctuations in the diarrhoea-incidences. If you are one of them, you will need help to support your piglets in the transition from sow milk to feed by adjusting management, water, feed and general hygiene”.
If you need advice, our distributors can help you with individual solutions.
*In case of risk of, during periods of, or recovery from digestive disturbances.
Here you will find more information on our fermented feeds
European Protein is a Danish family-owned protein producer. We work to promote health and productivity for animals through functional and sustainable plant proteins. The company was founded in 2011 and has protein factories in Denmark, Ukraine and the US.