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by Ester Vinyeta, Species

Leader Swine, and Jan
Dirk van der Klis, Head of
products and innovation/
Species Leader Poultry,
Delacon Biotechnik GmbH,

hen it comes to feed

additives (e.g. plant
extracts, enzymes, proand prebiotics, organic
acids and many more),
the livestock industry is
inundated with numerous
options, not only
promoting performance
of the animals and improving profitability, but also improving the
quality of feed and of animal-derived products. In this context,
phytogenic (=plant derived) feed additives are foreseen to have
a promising future in animal nutrition due to their broad range of
efficacies, and to their effects on sustainability and safety.
Increasing upcoming resistance of bacteria, arising from
continuously supplemented sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotic
growth promoters in livestock feeding caused the European
Union to ultimately impose a ban on the use of antibiotics in
animal nutrition in 2006, which other countries worldwide will
follow suite. By the end of 2016, a ban on antibiotic growth
promoters will also become effective in the US. Consequently,
alternative feed additives are receiving increased attention among
scientists, nutritionists, feed manufacturers and farmers.

Phytogenics proven for centuries

The use of plants and their compounds has a long history

in human nutrition and medicine, being used as flavors, food
preservatives and medicinal plants. Phytogenic feed additives
(PFAs) comprise a wide range of plants, like herbs, spices and
plant-derived essential oils (hydro-distilled extracts of volatile
plant compounds, mainly hydrocarbons, containing most of the
38 | June 2016 - Milling and Grain

active substances of the plant) and oleoresins (extracts based on

non-aqueous solvents).
The chemical composition of PFAs underlies a certain variation
due to their ingredients and other influencing factors like climate,
location, harvest, stage and storage conditions, explaining the
differences in efficacy between PFAs that are available on the
market so far. However, it should be realised that not all PFAs
available on the market are based on all-natural plant ingredients,
but might also contain synthetic nature-identical components.

The scientific gold standard in the feed industry

Phytogenics show a wider range of activities in animal

nutrition than synthetic substances. This advantage is based on
the synergistic effects of all agents within plants. This natural
synergy, grouped with sustainability and safety, is what makes
phytogenics a top solution platform in animal nutrition.
Fully based on phytogenic components and not on naturedidentical, single active ingredients, up to date, only one such
plant-derived feed additive has received the zootechnical
registration by the European Union, Fresta F. This is seen as
the scientific gold standard in the feed industry, because in the
course of strict approval processes, not only the safety but also
the performance enhancing effects as natural growth promoter
of the product have been officially confirmed by the European
Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
PFAs show a wide range of potential benefits, all targeting the
enhancement of performance of livestock. The following gives an
overview of certain proven benefits:

Sensorial stimulation and palatability

Many essential oils, aromatic herbs and spices have been

proven to enhance sensorial properties
of piglet diets and are used to improve
the palatability of piglet feed in order to
increase feed intake after weaning.

Increased enzymatic activity in the

intestinal tract

Numerous herbs and spices are shown

to increase pancreatic enzyme production
and bile secretion in the intestinal tract.
For instance, curcumin, piperin, ginger
and capsaicin clearly stimulate pancreatic
enzyme production, whereas fenugreek,
mustard, cumin and coriander stimulate bile
production. Increased enzyme production
improves the rate of digestion of the feed
and thus, improving its nutritional value.

Improved nutrient utilisation

Figure 1: Owing to this wide range of active ingredients, phytogenics

offer much more than flavoring properties. The effects are many, mostly
targeting the enhancement of livestock performance.

Apart from a better nutrient digestibility,

data from piglets and broiler trials indicate
an improved nutrient utilisation (higher
body weight gain at similar feed intake in
piglets or a similar body weight gain at
reduced feed intake in broilers). However,
these effects can vary due to type and
origin of the essential oils or herbs and the
inclusion level in the feed.

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Europe, Asia, and South America:
USA and Canada:

Milling and Grain - June 2016 | 39

More than 25
years ago,
Delacon coined
the term
phytogenics for
plant-based feed
additives and
pioneered this

Delacon invests
ten percent
of the annual
revenues in
research and
of phytogenic
additives and
looks forward
to the joint
research with
PMI Nutritional

From single
plants to a
feed additive,
and full
are Delacons
key for highest

Antioxidant effects

Especially aromatic plants from the plant family Labiatae

(e.g. rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage) have been extensively
studied for their antioxidant activity. This activity is not only
related to the phenolic compounds which have free-radicals
scavenging properties but also non-phenolic compounds may
show considerable antioxidant activity by enhancing gene
expression of antioxidant enzymes. These antioxidant effects are
protecting the organism at cell and tissue level, especially during
stressful conditions like weaning, reallocation, feed changes, poor
ventilation and heat stress conditions. Moreover, positive effects
of dietary supplementation with oregano, rosemary and sage on
shelf life of pork and poultry meat as well as on eggs have been

Antibacterial effects

According to some studies, extracts of herbs and spices

exert clear antibacterial activity against foodborne pathogens.
However, minimum dietary inclusion levels to be able to rely on
these antibacterial effects in pigs and poultry are generally too
high to be economically feasible. Nevertheless, levels needed to
inhibit the expression of virulence factors by pathogenic bacteria
(quorum sensing inhibition) are far lower and have been shown to
be a promising field of application.

Effects in intestinal mucosa

Several studies indicated positive effects on the intestinal

morphology in pigs and poultry, reporting increased villus: crypt
40 | June 2016 - Milling and Grain

ratios after feeding a PFA based on thymol and cinnemaldehyde

in weaned piglets. Increased trans-epithelial electric resistance of
duodenal mucosa of broiler was observed when broilers were fed
thymol supplemented diets. Moreover, pungent substances like
black pepper, chilli and garlic improve blood flow, which might
reduce the adverse impact of ischemia of the gastro-intestinal
tract on intestinal integrity, as it was shown in piglets during heat

Effects in reproductive performance

Feeding PFAs to lactating sows increases their feed intake and

litter weight at weaning. Above, live born litter size and weight
can be improved by feeding PFAs to sows during gestation
period. Lower annual sow mortality, lower culling rate during
lactation, increased farrowing rate, increased number of live-born
piglets per litter and decreased stillbirth are additional benefits

The success of plants is no accident

Increased pressure in terms of food safety, raising concerns about

animal health and environmental protection, rising feed costs,
increasing antibiotic resistance, strong global tendencies to reduce
antibiotic growth promoters these factors explain why phytogenics
are seen among the top solution platforms in animal nutrition for
the near future. Due to their content of an infinite variety of active
ingredients, phytogenic substances represent one of the most
interesting and important classes of current and future feed additives.
References are available upon request