Feed cost is the largest single item in animal production and accounts for 60 to 75% of the total production cost. Generally speaking, on total feed cost, raw materials that provide energy and proteins are about 90-95% of the cost, minerals and vitamins constitute 3-4% and 1-3% for various feed additives.
Plant extracts as natural growth promoters are often considered a dispensable increase in the feed cost. It is only after testing the product in the farm and obtaining an improvement in production parameters sufficient to cover the extra expense when the nutritionist agrees to include them in the formulation.
But the use of plant extracts can be seen from another point of view. Some plant extracts improve feed digestibility and the functioning of the digestive system, allowing a better use of nutrients. Including such extracts would allow the use of diets with reduced energy, protein or macro-minerals like calcium or phosphorus and yet maintain productive parameters.
Depending on specie and stage,
- Energy could be cut down by 50-125 ME/kg.
- Crude protein could be decreased by 2-4%. Lower protein content also means less load for animal’s intestine, reducing the risk of fermentation of undigested feed by pathogenic bacteria like Clostridium sp.
- Calcium could be lowered by 5-8% and phosphorus by 10-20%.
The cost of the feed with reduced nutrients, including the expense of plant extracts, may be 2-6% lower than normal feed. Cost of feed per ton of alive animal produced could be 4-8% lower.
THREE WAYS THAT PLANT EXTRACTS IMPROVE FEED USE
Plant extracts optimize nutrient absorption and feed use by favorably affecting gut functions.
- Modulation of gut flora
The intestinal flora is home to many beneficial species, which strengthen immunity and provide substances that promote health. However, there are other pathogenic species that, besides being the origin of disease, compete with the animal and the beneficial microbes for nutrients.Phytochemicals with bactericide and fungicide activity, such as cinnamon, garlic or marjoram, eliminate these competing pathogens. Other plants, for example chicory, are natural prebiotics that boost the population of beneficial bacteria and therefore indirectly reduce the population of harmful microbes.A more balanced flora will also lead to less ammonia concentration in intestines.
- Effect on morphology of digestive system
Chicory and other plant extracts are able to modify the morphology of the intestinal epithelium, by increasing the villus length and crypt depth, and thus amplifying the absorptive surface and the feed use.Others, for example sweet bay, induce a higher secretion of bile acids and optimize passage rate of ingesta.
- Effect on secretion of digestive enzymes
Cinnamon and sweet bay stimulate the physiological production of digestive enzymes, contributing to a better digestion of the feed.
The applications of plant extracts are not limited to be natural alternatives to growth promoters or health enhancers. When necessary to cut down costs, they are useful to reduce the amount of some main ingredients and thus increase the profit margin of the company. GrowthPlus© for poultry, rabbits and aquaculture and PigletPlus© for piglets are the products of choice because they combine extracts with the three mechanisms of action.
To carry out this cost saving project, it is necessary to work with a small number of animals, and perform various farm trials, decreasing essential nutrients gradually and carefully measuring the production parameters, to test which are the limits of the reduction in the conditions of our farm.
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