High doses of Zn are widely used for prevention and treatment of diarrhoea in weaning piglets; however, the mechanism of action of Zn against diarrhoea is still not well understood. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether weaning induces Zn deficiency in piglets. Eight litters of primiparous sows were selected for the experiment, and 3 piglets presenting similar weights were selected within each litter. Two of the three selected piglets from each litter were weaned at 21d of age and fed two different diets: a commercial control diet (WCt) and the same diet plus 2000 ppm of Zn as ZnO (WZn). The third selected pig from each litter was kept unweaned (Uw) with the sow and the rest of the litter. All 24 selected animals were killed at 28 d of age, and blood, gastrointestinal content, liver, pancreas and spleen were sampled for Zn, Fe and Cu analysis (mg/kg or L of sample). Data were analysed using anova including treatment as a fixed factor. Weaned pigs fed WCt diet presented a lower Zn concentration in plasma than Uw animals (0.76 ± 0.091 vs. 1.10 ± 0.099 mg/L, p = 0.05). Zinc levels in liver, pancreas and spleen were not affected by weaning. Total concentration of Zn was higher in gastrointestinal contents of weaned animals fed WCt diet than in Uw pigs (p ≤ 0.001 for stomach, jejunum, ileum, caecum and colon). Supplementation with high doses of ZnO increased levels of Zn in gastrointestinal content (p < 0.001), liver (p < 0.001) and pancreas (p < 0.001) compared to WCt diet. It also increased plasma Zn to non-deficient levels (1.32 ± 0.086), but the increase was not as marked as in other locations and final concentration was not different than that in Uw animals (p = 0.231). Weaning creates a Zn deficiency situation in weaned pigs as observed by plasma Zn concentrations. ZnO supplementation counteracts Zn deficiency. © 2013 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.
- Intestinal content