Can pig farmers reduce antimicrobial use without any long-term impact on productivity?

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Rat0007
© GettyImages/Rat0007

Related tags piglet Fishmeal milk powder sow Zinc oxide

Michael Nielsen, a Danish farmer producing 27,000 piglets/year in his farm, believes so.

He will be speaking at FeedNavigator’s conference, Young Animal Nutrition 2020​, in Amsterdam in March about piglet productivity, low medication use, and pig farming challenges in Denmark.

Ensuring high levels of animal welfare is a key component of production at his farm, Tilsbaek. There is no tail docking, and the piglets have an extended weaning age, at least four weeks of age, while sows are kept in 100% loose housing.

He looks to avoid diarrhea around weaning and, thus, limit antibiotic use. “When we start off piglets, we use ‘soft’ proteins like a lot of fishmeal and milk powder.”

Zinc oxide ban 

While still including zinc oxide (ZnO) in post-weaning formulations, the inclusion level is 1250 ppm ZnO or 50% of the maximum dosage allowed. Nielsen is looking to reduce ZnO inclusion levels gradually, going to a further 50% reduction again “very soon.”

“We tried to take it all out but that was not very successful. We had a lot of diarrhea.”

He hopes to be ZnO free by the time the ban on its usage in the EU comes around in June 2022.

There is a lot of pressure.”

More so at his farm, as it operates under a Danish retail concept that only allows half of the antibiotic usage limit set under Denmark’s Yellow Card system, introduced in 2010.

“We did try to make our production antibiotic-free. We are not ready for that now, but it is definitely one of our goals for the future.”

The farm’s output rate is around 30 piglets produced per sow per year. “We want to reach 33 piglets per sow. The top rate in Denmark today is around 40 piglets per sow, and the average amongst the best 25% is 36.5 piglets per sow per year. We want to be among that. I can accept coming in at 10% lower because of the constraints in our production model, however.”

He has started up a program to achieve the higher litter rate, consulting with veterinarians and two technical advisors. “We will look at every aspect of our production and see what we can do better.”

A board member of Danish Crown, Nielsen is also a member of the Danish Animal Ethics Advisory, chairman of the Danish Antonius cooperative and a member of the Veterinarian Board under the Danish Agriculture Council.  

Do you want to put questions to Nielsen? Then register to attend ​Young Animal Nutrition 2020. 

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