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With the world’s population rising and the demand for meat production increasing, animal agriculture must continue to adapt, all while adhering to stricter safety, welfare, and environmental protection demands. As a possible solution, there is a new rapidly growing sector of agriculture that can keep the industry on track: phytogenic feed additives.

What are phytobiotics?

Phytogenic feed additives also known as phytobiotics or botanicals are products used in animal health, nutrition, and welfare that are of botanical origin, meaning they are derived from plants. These additives are incorporated into livestock diets to improve overall productive performance. Phytogenics can be classified in several different ways and include a variety of different types of products as herbs, spices, essential oils, extracts, or oleoresins. However, specific categories have yet to be established. Processing modifies the active substances and compounds within the final product (Windisch et al., 2008). Methods could include cold expression, steam distillation, alcohol distillation, or extraction with non-aqueous solvents. The active substance contained within products may vary depending on the plant part applied, harvesting season, and geographical origin (Windisch et al., 2008). When it comes to these compounds, the effects are dependent on the dosage, and more is not always better. One question you may have regarding these products is the cost-effectiveness. Since these products are natural and are derived from plants, the time it takes for them to go through production is longer than their synthetic counterparts with a smaller amount of final product. However, many of these additives have a very low inclusion rate, making them cost-effective. Producers need to conduct a trial to make sure that these products will fit into their feeding budget. Nutritionists are crucial in helping to make these decisions. They work on a three-pronged approach focusing on the animals’ needs, what the feed will supply, and how the cost works into the farmer or rancher’s budget.

What does this mean for animals?

Livestock such as poultry, swine, ruminants, and aquatic animals are the most common users of phytobiotics. These feed additives serve many purposes within an animal’s system; however, most of the focus is on gut health. For several years, the focus was on the microbiota, but now incorporates permeability of the gut, enzyme secretion for digestibility, and anti-inflammatory properties. Depending on the compound, there could be an increase in metabolic rates. Phytogenic feed additives have a positive influence on zootechnical parameters such as weight gain, feed conversion ratio, and feed intake (Steiner & Syed, 2015).

Common Misconceptions

Although phytogenic products have been around for thousands of years, they are a new market, making them unfamiliar to most. The industry is evolving, discoveries and updated information coming out frequently. Animal systems are complex and take a lot of research to understand how compounds affect them. This goes for phytogenic feed additives as well. There is a lack of knowledge on the true scope of these vast products and their usage. With this comes challenges for the public, misconceptions arising. However, products that are used in animal production have been tested by experts and are safe to administer. They are just like any other product that even humans use, they must be extensively researched before they can be cleared for market. By now you may have started to draw a connection between antibiotics and phytogenics. Are these new and upcoming products coming to replace antibiotics and other growth promotors? This is not the case. Antibiotics focus primarily on animal health, whereas phytobiotics have the potential for much broader applications such as health, nutrition, and welfare. Phytogenics are another technology that can be used by the animal industry to create safe and high-quality meat.

What does the future hold?

Currently, phytogenic feed additives are used in regions across the world where agriculture production is prominent such as Asia Pacific, North America, South America, and Europe (Windisch et al., 2008). As our technologies advance in this area, numerous feed additives will continue to come on the market. Feed producers will need to carry more options to tailor to customer’s specific needs. Phytogenic feed additives have many different active ingredients and potential uses, making them a great contributor to the future of feed manufacturing. Another issue that phytogenic feed additive producers must contend with is the term “all-natural”. This draws some people in and pushes others away. There is some stigma behind something being “natural” in that it may not be as effective as its synthetic counterparts. This is where research and community outreach will need to happen, from simply educating feed additive producers, farmers, ranchers, the general public, and other experts in the field of agriculture to spread the research-based knowledge that is coming out of this topic. Our world is constantly changing and adapting each day. As we move forward thinking about how to feed our world, we will have to provide a wide array of products to meet producer’s needs.

If you are interested in learning more about these products or potentially using them in your production, please make sure to check out Phytobiotics North America, LLC. We will be happy to further address questions or help you figure out how our products fit into your production.

 References

 Steiner, T., & Syed, B. (2015). Phytogenic Feed Additives in Animal Nutrition. 403–423. https://doi.org/DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-9810-5_20

 Windisch, W., Schedle, K., Plitzner, C., & Kroismayr, A. (2008). Use of phytogenic products as feed additives for swine and poultry. American Society of Animal Science86(14), 140–148. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2007-0459

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