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Phytogenic Feed Additives

Plant-based ingredients for better performing flocks

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.

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 (2018 BIOMIN Phytogenic Feed Additives Survey).

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

Table 1. Herbs and spcies frequently used in phytogenic feed additives. Source: BIOMIN

The benefits of phytogenic feed additives

 Benefits of PFAs
Meat, egg producers and integrators
  • Cost reduction
  • Performance and productivity improvement
  • Health and welfare improvement
  • Integrating new technological and management innovations
  • Antibiotic reduction
  • New techniques of biosecurity, vaccination and disease prevention
  • Antibiotic reduction strategies that utilize alternatives to provide suitable health and welfare benefits
  • Digestibility
  • Quality of ingredients and consistency of formulation of feeds and supplements
  • By-products, emissions and waste production

The comprehensive review of studies (Windisch, 2008) indicates that PFAs have the potential to improve animal performance, and thus be an important addition to the set of non-antibiotic growth promoters, such as organic acids, probiotics and enzymes.

A further literature review showed that the main advantages of PFA application can include: (Máthé, 2009)

  • Reduced risk of enteric imbalances 
  • Improved growth performance
  • Stimulated feed intake
  • Increased egg production
  • Reduction of mortality
  • Better acceptance of feed ingredients with unpleasant taste
  • Improved meat quality (in terms of taste, color or texture)
  • Improved barn-climate including reducing unpleasant odor and toxic gases
  • No withdrawal period in most cases
  • No harmful residues in animal products

Phytogenic feed additives can be used in a variety of situations to support flocks, e.g.:

Why poultry producers use phytogenics

Survey responses from poultry producers located across the globe indicate that the main reason to use PFAs is enhanced feed efficiency. Better uniformity was the second most cited reason, followed by enhanced egg production and enhanced carcass yield.

Reasons why poultry producers use phytogenics:

  1. Enhanced feed efficiency
  2. Better uniformity
  3. Enhanced egg production
  4. Enhanced growth (carcass yield)
  5. Reduced medicinal costs
  6. Less wet litter
  7. Better meat quality
  8. Increased feed intake
  9. Emissions reduction (e.g. ammonia)
  10. Nutrient-sparing effect

The enhanced digestibility achieved with PFAs can mean a more complete use of nutrients, leading to an improvement in feed efficiency.

Consequently, there is a higher utilization of the protein within the feed, which is shown to produce lower emissions and so reduces environmental impact. One reason for using PFAs was their perceived antimicrobial effects, followed by their use within an AGP replacement strategy and also for growth promotion. Good past experiences with PFAs were also a significant reason for continued PFA use.

Improved gut performance - Managing challenges

PFAs represent a strong solution to prevent and overcome critical stages in the production cycle. Such stages include vaccination or a change of diets or feeding regimen. Such changes disrupt the digestive process that can alter the balance of gut microbiota leading to dysbiosis. These disruptions invite pathogenic proliferation such as Clostridia and others. The use of Digestarom® P.E.P. helps to prevent and overcome such challenges.

In a scientific trial done in Austria, where broilers were sub-clinically challenged with a coccidiosis vaccine, birds fed Digestarom® P.E.P. had increased growth performance, especially feed conversion, compared to the challenged control birds without feed additive. Additionally, histological analysis revealed longer intestinal villi and increased numbers of goblet cells in broilers fed Digestarom® P.E.P., indicating a healthier gut with increased absorptive capacity and enhanced protection against invading pathogens (Source: BIOMIN).

Moreover, a scientific trial was performed to identify the potential of PFAs to reduce the clinical signs of Necrotic enteritis in broilers. In this trial, broilers were divided into two groups, one without feed additive and one with Digestarom® P.E.P. and both groups were subjected to a challenge with Clostridium perfringens. The results showed that Digestarom® P.E.P. addition reduced intestinal lesion scores and lowered the mortality of infected birds (Source: BIOMIN).

Trial results in broilers

Summary of performance improvement in broilers using Digestarom®

BIOMIN has conducted numerous field and scientific trials on PFA supplementation. The results below show a summary of 31 trials over the last years from locations across the world.

Digestarom® was shown to:

  • Increase final body weight (+3.9%)
  • Improve FCR (-4.1%)
Summary of performance improvement (%) in broiler trials with Digestarom® Source: BIOMIN
Figure 1. Summary of performance improvement (%) in broiler trials with Digestarom® Source: BIOMIN

Improvement in feed conversion ratio (FCR)

Another recent trial using Cobb 500 Standard broilers showed that birds fed with Digestarom® DC, an innovative next-generation phytogenic product, showed a significant improvement in body weight gain compared to birds fed the control diet.

A considerable FCR enhancement was achieved in the group fed Digestarom® DC (1.69) compared to the control group (1.72) (Figure 2) Overall, supplementation with Digestarom® DC delivered a 2.83% increase in feed intake, a 4.96% increase in weight gain and a 1.75% (3 points) decrease in FCR (Figure 2).

Feed conversion ratio
Figure 2: Feed conversion ratio
A,B Different superscripts represent tendency towards statistical difference (p<0.01)

Improved meat quality 

Moreover, Digestarom® Poultry has shown to improve carcass characteristic such as:

  • Increase breast meat yield (+1.3%)
  • Increase meat pH (+1.7%)
  • Decrease meat drip losses (-10.7%)

Read: The Effect of Digestarom® on Poultry Meat Quality

Figure 3: Broiler meat quality improvements (%) with Digestarom®
Figure 3: Broiler meat quality improvements (%) with Digestarom®

Lower environmental impact

As a direct result of improved digestibility, studies show that broiler producers experienced lower CO2, ammonia and odor emission levels in their poultry houses.

A high concentration of ammonia in the poultry house is associated with adverse effects on the health and performance of birds.

Read 5 tips to successfully manage poultry house ammonia levels

PFAs increase the digestibility of nutrients, reduce gut inflammation caused by stressors, and help minimize the negative effects of harmful bacteria in the gut. These factors reduce the amount of undigested and unabsorbed nutrients that pass through the gut, and consequently reduces the amount excreted as feces and in turn reduces nitrogen excretion.

A trial comparing birds fed Digestarom® Poultry with no PFA added found that ammonia concentration was 12% lower for the Digestarom® Poultry fed birds.The airflow rate was 14% lower and the ammonia emissions were reduced by 11% in the Digestarom® Poultry group compared to the control.

Summary of performance improvement in layers using Digestarom®

In 9 selected trials involving commercial breeders and layers, supplementation with the PFA, Digestarom® was shown to:

  • Improve egg mass (+ 4.73%)
  • Increase number of eggs (+3.58%)
  • Improve FCR (-2.51%)
  • Improve egg quality
  • Improve fertility
  • Achieve better hatchability
Influence of Digestarom® Poultry on Layer performance
Figure 4: Influence of Digestarom® Poultry on Layer performance

Better egg quality and hatchability

Field trials have also demonstrated that eggshell quality, e.g. thicker egg shell, can be maintained or improved by the inclusion of Digestarom® Poultry, reducing the percentage of second quality eggs, in both breeders and commercial layers (BIOMIN data). This is a likely consequence of improved digestibility of minerals (calcium and phosphorus) and other nutrients from the feed, due to an enhanced gut morphology and function. Moreover, fertility (+ 2.4%) and hatchability (3 %) in Ross 308 breeders were shown to be improved leading to more chicks for further production.

How to choose a PFA

  • There are a number of factors to consider in the decision to use a PFA, and which one to choose. In the first instance, such a decision will be helped by the availability of scientific and commercial evidence.

  • The scientific understanding of PFAs in livestock continues to progress with the publication of new research findings. However, PFAs as feed additives are available in many different forms and formulations.

  • Therefore, it is important to consider such evidence that relates to quality control, scientifically standardized formulations and also how a particular study relates to specific livestock sectors and production stage.

Helping you choose a PFA
Helping you choose a PFA

The importance of standardization

The consistency and quality of ingredients can have a direct impact on the effectiveness of a PFA. It is important to source PFAs from reliable suppliers. The manufacturer’s stringent quality control standards are essential for proper analysis and supply of phytogenics active compounds.

Where to start

The wide range of products available may also contribute to the dilemma of choosing the right PFA. Technical and tailored advice can be sought from well-informed professionals. The BIOMIN team of technical sales managers are able to provide on-site support and advice to help clients to select appropriate products and achieve the best outcomes.

To date, BIOMIN, have conducted over 300 commercial trials using PFAs in major livestock species in various production stages and different regions.

A question of cost

Potential extra costs associated with PFAs use is one of the major concerns. While enhanced feed efficiency, productivity improvements and reduced medical costs usually ensure that PFAs provide positive economic benefits, the concern about value for money does also emphasize the importance of correct product choice and usage.

The BIOMIN technical support team provides guidance and valuable advice in choosing the ideal product and its correct application for an optimal result.



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