Strength from the Power of Nature: When the Animals are Happy, We’re all Happy23 November 2016
GLOBAL - This maxim is nothing new. Especially not for farmers, who nurture and care for their animals every day.
For consumers too, the buzzword is animal welfare. At the same time, food dumping is threatening the very existence of many farmers. Sustainable and species-appropriate livestock farming must be efficient and profitable.
Feed additives derived from plants – known as phytogenic feed additives – can help make this a reality. When it comes to food additives, the advertising industry is keen to promote the avoidance of artificial flavourings, colourings, flavour enhancers and the like.
In animal nutrition, additives are used selectively to increase animal health and therefore their performance. In addition to many artificial and synthetical additives, plant-based additives used as natural, sustainable growth promoters are an important component of livestock feed.
The power of nature, channeled into feed
We are used to using herbs and spices such as garlic, thyme, oregano, pepper, cinnamon and the like in the kitchen. These and many other plants and their extracts, such as essential oils, are also used as phytogenic feed additives in animal feed.
This term was coined by Delacon Biotechnik GmbH some 30 years ago. The company uses over 100 food-grade plant materials in its feed additives for poultry, pigs and ruminants. Pigs, being gourmets by nature, may well prefer the taste and smell of these plant-based additives.
However, their mode of action goes far beyond mere flavour enhancers. And it's not just animals that benefit; farmers, consumers and the environment do too.
Healthy animals for greater profitability
Phytogenic feed additives can boost the immune system of animals. By helping gut flora to flourish, they can reduce intestinal inflammations, for example. Improved nutrient digestibility enables animals to utilize more energy from feed, resulting in increased growth and performance. This also results in dryer excrement and therefore a dryer housing floor and better hoof and foot health. The animals' stress tolerance can also be improved. “Maintaining animal health is important to us”, explains Delacon CEO Markus Dedl. “Only healthy animals can fully exploit their genetic potential and achieve the appropriate level of performance. Feed costs are reduced and profitability for the farmer is increased”.
Take Bavarian farmer Walter Stemplinger, for example; he has very positive experiences of using phytogenic feed additives: “The cows’ fertility has improved, they prefer the taste, we have fewer hoof problems, digestibility and feed conversion rates have improved, as well as milk yields.” Two years ago, he switched his dairy cows to a new feed supplied by his trusted compound feed manufacturer. This is because Delacon does not sell directly to farmers, but to premix, mineral and compound feed manufacturers who incorporate the additives into their products and then sell them to farmers.
Fewer emissions, better air
Emissions are another aspect that should not be overlooked. Germany, for example, plans to halve farm-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to the recently published draft of the Climate Action Plan 2050. The majority of agricultural emissions are derived from natural physiological processes. These can be reduced with the aid of management practices and technological solutions. Another option is to tackle the physiological processes from the outset –during nutrient absorption.
“The use of phytogenic additives in feed can reduce ammonia emissions by 50 percent”, explains Markus Dedl. This reduces unpleasant odors around farms, animals benefit from cleaner air in their stalls and fewer respiratory diseases, and farmers can enjoy better working conditions. Phytogenic feed additives can also bring about a 20 percent reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas methane. “If each individual animal of the world’s pig and poultry population were fed with Delacon's phytogenic feed additives, we would save 29 million tons CO2 equivalents, corresponding to the carbon footprint of all of Madrid’s citizens”, Dedl explained.
Are there any other benefits for the consumer? “The greatest possible degree of safety, as confirmed by the European Food Safety Authority” states Markus Dedl. “We like talking to consumers about plant-based feed additives”.
Living the vision
Company founder Helmut Dedl was deeply convinced even 30 years ago that something had to change: a natural alternative to antibiotic and synthetical growth promoters; not just for organic farming, but for conventional farming as well.
He began to invest in the research and development of plant-based feed additives. At the time, his ideas were ridiculed, but he continued along the rocky road. Today phytogenic feed additives form an integral part of a very wide variety of livestock feed formulae throughout the world and Delacon is a global market leader in this rapidly growing segment. The pioneering work and persistence has paid off and the mission lives on: Boosting the efficiency of animal nutrition, improving animal health and food safety, whilst at the same time minimizing environmental pollution through new combinations of plant-based substances.
“We have replaced belief with knowledge and are proud to have pioneered phytogenic feed additives”, stressed the son of the founder and current CEO Markus Dedl. “We work ceaselessly to harness the power of nature and exploit the full spectrum of activity of plant-based substances in a targeted manner. We test the measurable effects at our research center and also have them evaluated by independent universities and institutes around the world as well as by customers in field trials. Each year, ten percent of our turnover is reinvested in research and development – at Delacon, it’s in our DNA