Dealing with new EU legislation for copper

With the effect of August 13th this year new European rules for copper in animal feeds will come into effect. If no action is taken, this could seriously affect performance and health of weaned piglets. FRAmelco comes up with solutions to deal with the consequences and to avoid a dip in piglet performance.

The European Union wants to get rid of the use of copper and zinc in animal feeds above the minimal requirements for normal maintenance and production. The negative impact on the environment is the main reason. The initially proposed copper level for all pigs was 25 mg/kg, which, for piglets, is much lower than the current 170 mg till the age of 12 weeks. Fortunately, experts from FEFAC (the European Feed Manufacturers' Federation) successfully lobbied for a more realistic level in piglet feeds taking into consideration both animal performance and the environment (see table1). From February 13th this year premixes need to be adjusted to these new copper levels and from August 13th this also applies to the feeds.  

Table 1 EU Regulation 2018/1039 on copper content in animal feeds

Growth promoting effect

Despite the lobby, after the weaning period, piglets will still face a significantly reduction of copper from 170 to 100 mg/kg. This will affect growth performance and faeces consistency as levels above 25 mg have growth promoting and antimicrobial effects (Bikker et al., 2015). These effects can be attributed to both the antibacterial effect of copper in the gastrointestinal tract and the effect of copper on hormones, like growth hormone and the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin, which indirectly stimulate feed intake and growth. A maximum growth promoting effect is reached at around 170 mg, as reviewed by Jongbloed et al. (2011) and Jondreville et al. (2002).


If no action is taken, the new copper rules could seriously affect piglet performance and health. With lower dietary copper contents, the application of alpha-monoglycerides becomes more interesting. FRAmelco developed special concepts for piglets to optimally support intestinal health and to protect piglets against bacterial challenges. These concepts are based on a special combination of alpha-monoglycerides. Various types of alpha-monoglycerides are known for their antibacterial effect either against Gram-negative bacteria, like E. Coli and Salmonella or Gram-positive bacteria, like Streptococcus. Combining the right alpha-monoglycerides will result in a broad-spectrum antibacterial effect in the entire gastrointestinal tract.