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What is a Phytogenic Feed Additive?

Phytogenic feed additives, known as PFAs or botanicals, are substances of plant origin added to animal diets at recommended levels with the aim of improving animal performance. Essential oils, herbs and spices all serve as sources for bioactive ingredients, e.g. phenols and flavonoids.

Phytogenics include a broad range of plant materials, most of which have a long history in human nutrition, where they have been used as flavors, food preservatives and medicines since ancient times.

What is a Phytogenic Feed Additive?

Table 1. Herbs and spices with known benefits for farm animals, Source: BIOMIN

Herb/spiceLatin namePlant familyMain constituentsKey Benefits
OreganoOreganum vulgareLabiateaeCarvacrol, thymolAntimicrrobial, Antioxidant
ThymeThymus vulgareLabiateaeThymol, carvacrolAntioxidant, Antimicrobial
GarlicAllium sativum L.Alliaceae, LiliaceaeDiallyldisulfide, alliin, alliciinLipid digestion, antimicrobial
HorseradishArmoracia rusticanaBrassicaceaeAllyl-isothiocyanateImmunity booster
Chili, Cayenne PepperCapsicum frutescensSolanaceaeCapsaicinAppetite, palatability
PeppermintMentha piperitaLabiateaeMenthol, carvacrolStomach, improving gut peristalsis
CinnamonCinnamomum cassiaLauraceaeCinnamaldehydeAntimicrobial, Appetising
AnisePimpinella anisumApiaceae, UmbelliferaeAnetholAppetite, stomach peristalsis

Effects in animals

Phytogenics are known to have a range of biologically active properties that are beneficial in modern livestock production, including: antioxidativeanti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and digestion-enhancing effects.1 For example, phenols such as thymol, carvacrol and eugenol (often derived from thyme, oregano and clove) and their methyl ethers have a very strong antiseptic and antimicrobial effect. Species of the families of Apiaceae such as caraway and fennel and Lamiaceae (e.g. rosemary and peppermint) have strong antioxidative properties

Other plant compounds support better digestibility by boosting digestive secretions such as bile, mucus and saliva as well as enhancing enzyme activity.

Achieving consistent and reliable results with plant-based substances in animal diets requires a well-defined formulation, standardized raw materials and effective quality control.

Main benefits

The use of phytogenic feed additives offers a number of benefits to producers, including:

  • enhanced animal performance
  • improved feed efficiency
  • reduced emissions

Overall, PFAs are capable of reducing microbial threat and promoting intestinal health, which is imperative for optimal performance and profitability.2

Reasons for PFA use

Nutritionists, growers, business owners, veterinarians and consultants located in over 80 countries provided their views on the use of plant-derived compounds in farm animal nutrition within the framework of the 2018 BIOMIN Phytogenic Feed Additives Survey.

Antimicrobial effects ranked as the number one reason that the livestock industry uses phtogenics, followed by digestibility enhancement, their use within an AGP replacement strategy and growth promotion. Respondents also cited PFAs’ potential for an optimized feed conversion ratio (FCR), higher feed intake and environmental emissions reduction as reasons that they use phytogenic feed additives.

Figure 1. Top reasons that respondents use phytogenic feed additives, Source: BIOMIN 2018

A growing market

While PFAs have been used in commercial agriculture settings since the 1980s, only around 5% of feed used worldwide includes these plant-based products.

Numerous trends, including antibiotic reduction, the uptake of novel growth promoters (NGPs) to optimize feed costs, the drive to improve efficiency and requirements to reduce emissions should boost demand worldwide for plant-derived additives in the future.

As a consequence, the market for phytogenic feed additives is projected to quadruple, reaching between US$1.7 billion and US$2 billion in global sales by 2030, according to BIOMIN.

Figure 2. Global PFA Market Growth Projections
Figure 2. Global PFA Market Growth Projections

Applegate TJ, Klose V, Steiner T, Ganner A, Schatzmayr G. Probiotics and phytogenics for poultry: myth or reality? J Appl Poult Res (2010) 19:194–210.10.3382/japr.2010-00168

Murugesan G. R., Syed B., Haldar S., Pender C. (2015). Phytogenic feed additives as an alternative to antibiotic growth promoters in broiler chickens. Front. Vet. Sci. 2:21 10.3389/fvets.2015.00021