A naturally occurring protein in pigs regulates zinc uptake. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia recently made this discovery.

The protein is called metallothionein. While zinc helps weaned pigs grow better, metallothionein keeps the pigs from getting too much or too little. It binds up excess zinc and prevents zinc from becoming toxic.

Metallothionein also metabolizes zinc from the liver and other sources.

Pigs should be fed supplemental zinc (3,000 ppm zinc oxide) at least the first two weeks after weaning. Then the pigs are "zinc loaded" and excess zinc is discarded in feces.

Researcher: Marcia Carlson, University of Missouri-Columbia (573)882-7859.