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Reducing Feed Costs by the Use of Phytogenics

01 February 2013


A combination of nutrient-sparing tool with phytogenic feed additives is a sustainable and safe solution allowing for reducing feed cost while maintaining the desired performance.standard or re-formulated diets, according to Dr Ahmed Aufy, Technical Manager with Biomin's Competence Center Phytogenics.

With conventional nutrition, producers tend to make use of the least-cost feed formulations, which served for a long time as powerful solution to mitigate high feed prices. On the other hand, formulating broiler diets by the least-cost tool is not that easy as in ruminants because of the differences in the availability of raw materials for poultry and ruminants. Of course there are some programmes that can target lower feed cost in an effective way but unfortunately, most of these programmes failed to keep the balance between lower feed cost and acceptable performance.

Down specified diets should be formulated in the way that guarantees the achievement of acceptable levels of performance and high quality product.

Digestibility is the Key Factor for Growth Compensation

The power of any feed additive is judged through its potential in improving the utilization of protein, amino acids and energy. There is no linearity between digestibility and the density of the offered feed, which means that we may offer a very rich diet but its digestibility may be low.

Nutrient digestibility or utilization depends on many factors. For example, there is wide variation in the microbial status of the gastrointestinal tract or existence of bacterial challenge and nutrients source and their accessibility to the animal for absorption. Through controlling gut microflora, phytogenic feed additives have a great potential to improve nutrients digestibility. With the addition of the phytogenics, essential oils take a place in the gut to kill pathogenic bacteria and hence lowering the competition on the nutrients between bacteria and their host which makes more nutrients available for absorption.

Nutrient-sparing and Environment

It is a challenge to supply the market with safe product - natural or antibiotic-free product - that meets customer satisfaction, is beneficial for animal health and environmentally friendly and has economical value. Focusing on the environmental issue, animal production is accused of being a key player in the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Some have called for a limit on animal production, while ignoring the growing demand on animal products that is expected to double by 2050.

Nutrient sparing could be a powerful solution to limit the emissions because decreasing one protein unit may decrease greenhouse gases by 10 per cent. As they are natural compounds extracted from plants, phytogenics are safe for animal and human consumption. Phytogenic feed additives being used for their beneficial effects in terms of performance improvers where they always allow better conversion for the feed. Furthermore, phytogenic feed additives work to decrease ammonia emissions through improving protein utilization and hence decreasing the loss of nitrogen in manure.

Multiple Actions for Multiple Targets

Due to the high genetic potential of modern broiler strains, these birds tend to be very susceptible to any decrease in protein and energy levels. In addition to their efficacy in improving the productive performance, phytogenics can be used to decrease or even diminish the risk in feed formulation which occurs because of improper mixing, variation in nutrient composition within feedstuffs or inadequate ingredients.

Biomin believes that this effect is very significant because manufacturing errors are quite difficult to detect and can cause severe loss in productivity and hence profitability. Many studies have proven that phytogenic feed additives have positive impacts on different health parameters where feeding birds these compounds has led to lower microbial content in the digestive tract, lower toxins and ammonia production, improved immunity and lower mortality.

There is a positive correlation between metabolic diseases and high-density feed. It was shown that sudden death syndrome and ascites can be controlled via feed optimisation. Furthermore, chronic stress can be induced by high nutrients feed through increasing birds’ metabolic rate which can be avoided by offering low-density diets.

The target behind the combination of nutrient-sparing and phytogenic feed additives is to pool their advantages to end up with a modern feeding program that can meet the modern broiler performance and in the same time to avoid as much as possible the consequences of high feed prices.

To investigate the growth compensating effect of phytogenics and also the impact of diet down specification with or without a commercial phytogenic product, an experiment in Novi Sad University was performed where birds were assigned into four treatment groups as shown in Table 1.

Table 1.
** Metabolizable energy and amino acids

Figure 1 shows that offering the low-density diet resulted in about two per cent reduction in bodyweight while the phytogenic product showed a clear compensation effect as group 4 had exactly the same bodyweight of the control group. Surprisingly, feed conversion ratio of Group 4 (re-formulated with the feed additive) was the lowest among all groups (Figure 2), which proves the efficacy of phytogenics as digestibility enhancers.

Figure 1. Effect of a commercial phytogenic feed additive on live weight of 42-day-old broilers fed standard or re-formulated diets

Figure 2. Effect of a commercial phytogenic feed additive on feed conversion ratio of broilers at 42 days of age

The results revealed that lowering nutrients in the feed had a negative impact on bodyweight and feed conversion ratio, which seems logical because of the high nutritional requirements of broiler chickens. On the other hand, the nutrient-sparing effect of the phytogenic feed additive was clear where it was capable of recovering bodyweight and interestingly, lowering feed conversion ratio.

Now one must go beyond the traditional thinking to new horizons in animal nutrition where we will find different scenarios. The first scenario represents the standard feeding programme resulting in standard performance. In the second scenario, the same level of performance is achieved by reformulating the diet using phytogenic feed additives. The third and final scenario is the re-formulation of the diet with phytogenic feed additives for an increased level of performance while maintaining feed cost (Figure 3). Choosing the right scenario depends on the actual targets of the producers.

Figure 3. The concept of nutrient-sparing, including three different scenarios


The fundamental question is "Do conventional feeding programmes serve for the modern broiler production?" It appears that the combination of nutrient-sparing tool with phytogenic feed additives is a sustainable and safe solution allowing for reducing feed cost while maintaining the desired performance standard or re-formulated diets.

February 2013

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