Zinc oxide is an old friend of pigs, but an enemy to the environment and toxic to broilers when used at pharmacological doses. Copper sulphate is an even older friend to both pigs and poultry, but still not the best thing to dump into the fields through manure when used at growth-promoting levels. But they do work, and nutritionists and producers alike are hard to be separated from them. Lamentably for us, and happily for the future generations that will continue to enjoy fertile fields, these two very useful tools are as good as dead.

But despair not! Other forms are available, and even more are being investigated or are under the (lengthy) process of being approved by regulation officials. In fact, I believe we shall see a plethora of new products, some really useful, some others not so effective, occupying the news and our attention in the following few years. Perhaps a couple products will match or even surpass the performance boost enjoyed by our good old friends zinc oxide and copper sulphate.

Indeed, there are currently some products that have a very remarkable record. I had the good fortune working with one as a graduate student — part of my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Illinois. Another product was developed right around the time I started my consulting business, and I have had very good things to say about it. Right now, even more products are on my radar; exciting times!

In fact, one of the highlights of my visit to Eurotier next week will be a number of discussions with serious manufacturers of alternative zinc and copper sources. It is a good time to brush up my mineral knowledge, learn about new developments and see some old and new friends. You would not be wrong to expect an article on the subject by me in the very near future.

In the mean time, here are some articles I have written so far:

Zinc's future in pig feeds under EU regulations

Zinc oxide buffers organic acids in piglet feeds

Adding copper sulfate to antibiotic-free piglet diets