How zinc influences gut health and immune competence of pigs

Published on
October 7, 2019

High concentration of zinc (as zinc oxide) in diets in the post-weaning period of piglets potentially modulate the animal’s intestinal microbiota and development of its local immune system. A high zinc intervention was used as a model to study opportunities for dietary interventions to influence gut functionality in pigs.

Effects on gut functionality & health

Results from studies done at Wageningen Livestock Research indicate that providing a high zinc diet from day 14-23 post weaning modulates the pig’s gut microbiota composition and intestinal functioning based on effects of expression of genes in intestinal tissue. The effects on the microbiota profile were more pronounced in the distal part compared to the proximal parts of the small intestine. Various gene expression pathways, in part related to the local immune system in the gut, were affected by a high level of zinc in the diet as model intervention. In a follow-up study we confirmed that the third week after weaning of piglets is still an appropriate window to modulate gut functionality and indices of gut health.

Follow-up research

Here we have shown that we can modulate gut health indices, however, we still lack information to which extent the observed changes are beneficial for pigs in different conditions. Therefore in follow-up research we will investigate the effects of the same intervention under an immune challenge condition.

Supporting gut health in piglets

The studies have been performed within the framework of the public private partnership Feed4Foodure, with financial support of the Ministry of LNV and “Vereniging Diervoederonderzoek Nederland" – VDN. The results of this research contributes to our understanding on possibilities to support gut health and immune competence of piglets via dietary interventions.