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Phytogenic Feed Additives

Performance and meat quality improvements due to phytogenic feed additive applications are the key to better economic results.

Over the years, at BIOMIN we have conducted more than 60 commercial swine trials with phytogenic feed operations in livestock operations across the globe.  

Here, we will highlight some of the most important commercial trials and their results for sows, weaners and growing/finishing pigs. 

Definition

Phytogenic feed additives, known as PFAs, are substances of plant origin added to animal diets known to have a range of bioactive properties1. Herbs, spices, essential oils, and plant extracts all serve as sources for bioactive compounds, e.g. phenols and flavonoids.

In modern animal production, PFAs are used for the purpose of antimicrobial effect, digestibility enhancement, performance improvement and others (Source: 2018 BIOMIN Phytogenic Feed Additives Survey).

Table 1. Herbs and spcies frequently used in phytogenic feed additives. Source: BIOMIN
Herb/SpiceLatin namePlant familyMain constituentsKey Benefits
OreganoOreganum vulgareLabiateaeCarvacrol, ThymolAntimicrobial, Antioxidant
ThymeThymus vulgareLabiateaeThymol, CarvacrolAntioxidant, Antimicrobial
GarlicAllium salivum 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 ansiumApiaceae, UmbelliferaeAnetholeAppetite, stomach peristalsis

Alternatives to antibiotics

Essential oils and other plant-based substances have been considered as alternatives to antibiotics in swine production. Phytogenic feed additives are not meant to substitute for treatment of sick animals. However, many producers use phytogenics because of their anti-inflammatory or anti-bacterial properties, which are relevant to the replacement or removal of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) in feed (antibiotic-free feeding) within the context of a holistic approach to antibiotic reduction

Sow fertility improvement, reduced culling  

Genetic advances not only lead to larger litter sizes, but also to reduced piglet´s birthweights. Piglets with lower birthweights often have higher mortality and lower weight gain until market. This increases days to market. Often sows present high weight losses during lactation accompanied by decreased milk production due to reduced feed intake. Thus impairing not only the current litter development but also the subsequent reproductive cycle, reducing fertility, litter size or farrowing rate. 

Several studies have shown the positive influence of Digestarom® Sow on sow and litter performance when used in the lactation feed. Sows had higher feed intake during lactation, produced more milk, converted the ingested feed more efficiently, lost less body weight (Figure 1), and their litters grew better. 

Figure 1: Loss of back fat thickness in lactation as expression of body weight loss | Source: BIOMIN
Figure 1: Loss of back fat thickness in lactation as expression of body weight loss | Source: BIOMIN

Continuous supplementation of lactation and gestation feeds with Digestarom® Sow improved several additional performance parameters. Overall sow fertility was enhanced, culling rates for fertility issues, always an expression of sow health, were reduced by more than 30% compared to the non-treated herd (Figure 2). In addition, production parameters such as farrowing rate, piglet index and number of piglets weaned at proper weight were enhanced over all parities in the supplemented herd, most apparent from the second production cycle on.

Figure 2: Sows culled for fertility reasons | Source: BIOMIN
Figure 2: Sows culled for fertility reasons | Source: BIOMIN

In trials where Digestarom® Sow was used from day 80-85 of gestation until weaning, or, in other words, only in lactation feed resulted in higher feed intake of the sows, higher piglet weaning weights (0.25 – 0.7 kg), less body weight losses of the sows and a shorter wean-to-estrus interval. 

In trials where Digestarom® Sow was applied during one or more complete reproductive cycles, in gestation and lactation feed, a similar improvement in outcomes was observed.  

Alongside with the enhanced fertility of the sows, demonstrated in farms of different countries (see Figure 3) and production levels (from 27 to > 35 weaned piglets/sow/year), the number of weaned piglets compared to the not supplemented sows enhanced by 0.4 up to 1.9.  

Figure 3. Digestarom® Sow improves fertility in commercial trials | Source: BIOMIN
Figure 3. Digestarom® Sow improves fertility in commercial trials | Source: BIOMIN

Milk Quality 

Although milk is traditionally considered the ideal feed for neonatal animals, its composition can include various hazards. More attention has to be addressed to the somatic cell count (SCC) of sow milk. It can lead, independently of the moment of occurrence, to highly significant impaired growth of piglets during lactation, as shown in Table 1. 

Table 1: Correlation between SCC of sow milk and piglet weight

SpecificationBW day 1 (kg)BW day 7 (kg)BW day 14 (kg)
SCC 24 h p.p.-0.12-0.12-0.19*
SCC day 7-0.28**-0.21**-0.16
SCC day 14-0.23**-0.23**-0.22**
SCC day 21-0.30**-0.24**-0.26**

**Significance level P≤0.05, **significance level P≤0.01
Adapted from: Skrzypczak et al., 2012

When supplementing sow feed with Digestarom® Sow positive effects on SCC immediately after farrowing could be shown in a scientific trial (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Influence of Digestarom® Sow on SCC of freshly farrowed sows | Source: BIOMIN
Figure 4: Influence of Digestarom® Sow on SCC of freshly farrowed sows | Source: BIOMIN

The reduction of SCC can also be seen as downgrading of (subclinical) inflammatory processes in the mammary glands, explaining that way partly the practical experiences of less occurrence of MMA-issues (Mastitis, Metritis, Agalactia) in sows fed Digestarom® Sow

As demonstrated, the consequent economic benefits of PFA application in sows stems from numerous sources, including enhanced fertility, more piglets weaned per sow per year, enhanced performance persistence and reduced replacement rates. 

Growth promotion in piglets 

Looking across 12 commercial trial, conducted in China, USA, Mexico, Russia, Poland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, etc. reveals that using Digestarom® Grow in weaner/grower feed results in about 6% enhanced weight gain and ca. 3% improvement in feed conversion, on average (Figure 5).  

 

These data had been obtained partly from trials where in-feed antibiotics were compared against phytogenics. 

The ability of Digestarom® Grow to support growth is based on a multi-component mode of action. Scientific trials have shown that Digestarom® Grow enhances the digestibility of feed ingredients, especially of crude protein close to 10% (Maenner et al, 2011).  

The same publication reported a modulating effect on the gut microbiota. Other scientific studies proved the capabilities of Digestarom® Grow to reduce NF-κB mediated inflammatory processes in the gut tissue and at the same time stimulating one of the mayor cell defense mechanisms, the Nrf2 pathway (Gessner et al., 2013). 

Figure 5: ADG and FCR improvement with Digestarom® Grow | Source: BIOMIN
Figure 5: ADG and FCR improvement with Digestarom® Grow | Source: BIOMIN

Combatting scour in piglets 

Unspecific diarrhea poses health and performance problems in piglets.  

Trials in South America and in Europe indicate that Digestarom® P.E.P. liquid, a phytogenic product specifically developed for resolving diarrheal challenges in piglets, applied preventively in newborn piglets has the potential to increase weaning weights and to lower pre-weaning mortality as well as unspecific diarrhea incidence in piglets, as shown in Tables 2 and 3. 

Table 2: Adjusted weaning weight for 23 days in nursery. Source: BIOMIN

FarmControlDigestarom®△ (kg) △ (%)
# pigletsØ weight (kg)# pigletsØ weight (kg)
17395.835016.881.0515.3
210926.3013896.740.446.5
31566.051986.540.497.5
4*113975.628285.980.366.1

*Only first parity litters

Table 3: Impact on mortality and weaning weight of first parity litters. Source: BIOMIN

ParametersControlDigestarom®
# litters109876
Live born/litter (#)11.2411.41
Mortality (%)7.74.5
Weaned/litter (#)10.3810.90
Weaning weight (kg)5.625.98

Performance improvements in finishers  

We have conducted more than 20 commercial trials of Digestarom® Finish over the years, in geographies spanning Asia, Europe and the US, comparing outcomes against control diets, diets with AGP supplementation and more recently with ractopamine in the diet. (The latter, while banned for pigs in the EU and parts of Asia, is still permitted in certain areas).  

Zootechnical performance parameters like weight gain or feed efficiency were the most commonly observed and recorded parameters. Due to different trial set ups, very different feed ingredients, a great variability in the starting weights, a direct comparison of the trials results is not feasible.  

Nevertheless, average daily gain (ADG) improvements of 3.5% to 9% and reductions in feed conversion ratios (FCR) of 2% to 6% are comparable with those observed in piglets. 

In addition to zootechnical parameters, lean meat percentage, carcass characteristics, meat quality and stock uniformity have a major impact on the profitability of pig finishing.  

Overall, under the most variable feed ingredients, different climate conditions and production technologies, the use of Digestarom® Finish in finishers has confirmed economic advantages for pig producers.  

More lean meat in finishers 

Figure 6 shows the results of a commercial trial that included 10 Austrian farms, in which Digestarom® Finish improved average lean meat percentages by 0.81 points.  

Figure 6: Increase in lean meat with Digestarom® Finish | Source: BIOMIN
Figure 6: Increase in lean meat with Digestarom® Finish | Source: BIOMIN

Uniformity improvements in finishers 

Unfortunately, flock uniformity has not been recorded in the majority of the commercial finisher trials. To highlight one particular example, where it was recorded, Figure 6 shows the results of a commercial trial in Germany where more than 90% of the Digestarom® group were in the highest three weight categories, versus less than 75% in the control group indicating a better uniformity in the group receiving Digestarom® Finish.    

Figure 6: Digestarom® Finish improves distribution of weight categories | Source: BIOMIN
Figure 6: Digestarom® Finish improves distribution of weight categories | Source: BIOMIN

Conclusion

  • Although not all standards of scientific trials are met in commercial trials, the importance of the latter in demonstrating the value of phytogenic feed additives under different production conditions, at different production levels and under different climate conditions should not be underestimated.

    The similarity of scientific and commercial trial results under different management and production conditions around the globe indicate the value that the Digestarom® - product line can deliver to swine producers.

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