Fluctuations in Zn metabolism throughout gestation and lactation might affect Zn requirements. However, scientific data on Zn requirements for breeding sows are limited. The objective of the present study was to assess the Zn status of primiparous and multiparous sows using different Zn status biomarkers, to identify periods of critical Zn status throughout the reproductive cycle at different parities. Blood samples were taken after overnight fasting before feeding in the morning from five primiparous and ten multiparous sows at fixed time intervals during gestation (days − 5, 0 (insemination), 21, 42, 63 and 84), around parturition (days 108, 112, 115 (parturition) and 118) and during lactation (days 122, 129 and 143 (weaning)). At parturition, blood samples were collected from two randomly selected piglets per sow before colostrum intake. Plasma was analysed for Zn and Cu contents, whereas serum was analysed for alkaline phosphatase, metallothionein and albumin concentrations. Independently of parity, all biomarkers fluctuated differently during gestation and lactation (P< 0·050). This reflects their different roles in Zn metabolism, and suggests that the choice of a Zn status biomarker necessitates careful consideration. Low average plasma Zn concentration at the end of gestation and throughout lactation seem to be replenished towards weaning.