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From nature to highly sophisticated feed additives

A spray-cooling technology guarantees small micro-pearls with identical composition in every single particle

The interest in phytogenic additives as natural performance enhancers for pigs is increasing. Stabilisation of gut functions and stimulation of the immune system is what counts in this respect. This article discusses the mode of action of phytogenic ingredients like capsicum and turmeric oleoresins.

By Dr Sven Brenner, market manager and Clementine Oguey, R&D expert, Pancosma, Switzerland

In the dynamic world of livestock production, nutritionists and feed formulators are constantly searching for new feed additives that can improve animal performance, gut health and immunity. The recent discussion about antibiotics and consumer demand for healthy and safe food raises the interest for ‘natural solutions’. Phytogenic additives have a positive image and proved their effectiveness in the past without involving risks to animals, consumers or the environment. The Xtract range is the result of an ambitious ten-yearprogramme developed by Pancosma in collaboration with universities and research centres.

Cutting-edge research
The Swiss-based company focuses on the development of products which meet the demands of the markets. To achieve this, its R&D department is following a two-step approach consisting in basic research to understand the mode of actions of phytonutrients and then translating the results into innovative products providing practical solutions for modern feeding concepts. In the past decade, Dr David Bravo, head of the company’s R&D, succeeded in establishing an international network with renowned scientific experts working with swine, poultry and ruminant models. The objectives of the co-research are the investigation of the interactions of phytonutrients with immunity in infection models. In the field of swine nutrition, a collaboration was established with Dr James Pettigrew, a swine specialist at the University of Illinois, USA, investigating the interactions of phytonutrients with immunity in infection models involving E. coli and PRRSV. In 2007, Dr Hyun Lillehoj, USDA, joined this network focusing on studies on coccidiosis in poultry.

The results of this research was shared during congresses (Joint Annual Meeting in Denver, USA in 2011) and by publication of data in major peer-reviewed scientific journals (JAS, BJN). In addition, these scientific data have been translated into functional additives, by validating the models under applied practical conditions. The result of this procedure are two products dedicated to pigs, called Xtract 6930 and Xtract Nature.

Production technology
Modern industrial animal feed production systems demand feed additives that have certain chemical and physical properties (standardisation, stability and flowability). A high degree of standardisation can only be achieved by selecting appropriate raw materials with homogenous content of the desired active substances. Simply ground and dried herbs usually show a big variation of different active components. In the group of plant extracts the oleoresins such as capsicum or turmeric oleoresins provide a much higher degree of standardisation compared to the steam-distilled essential oils. Nature identical substances allow an optimal standardisation. The novel product range for monogastric animals are microencapsulated additives containing different combinations of capsicum and turmeric oleoresins, carvacrol and cinnamaldehyde.

The spray-cooling technology guarantees a high stability of the phytonutrients during storage and further feed processing. This technology prevents the release of pungent and irritating ingredients during handling and provides worker safety, free flowing dustless powder consisting of small micropearls with identical composition in every single particle.

Mode of action
Phytogenic additives are often considered to have anti-microbial effects. This is only half of the truth. Indeed, many secondary plant ingredients have such anti-microbial properties as their function in the plant is to protect it from environmental harm but when used as an additive in feed this effect can only be achieved with a relatively high dosage. Under practical conditions high dosages are not affordable due to high costs. However, there are bioactive plant ingredients which have positive physiological effects on animals. Many trials have proven that the phytonutrients used in the product range have beneficial effects when used at the low inclusion rates provided by the dietary doses.

Capsicum enhances the digestive secretions like lipase and bile acids and improves feed digestibility. More recent studies focus on the effects of phytonutrients on pig health and performance by modulating immunity in vitro such as by suppressing the pro-inflammatory cytokines production by macrophages (e.g: TNF- ).

Moreover, two in vivo challenged studies reported that the supplementation of capsicum and turmeric oleoresins to young pigs reduced diarrhoea challenged or not with E. coli.

The phytogenic product range reduced inflammation caused by the E. coli challenge. For example, Capsicum oleoresin reduced serum haptoglobin (a serum acute phase protein, indicator of inflammation), see Figure 1. The second study showed that capsicum and turmeric oleoresins fed to nursery pigs have the potential to enhance the pigs’ immune responses to a PRRSV challenge, it can help alleviate negative impacts of infection (e.g. turmeric oleoresin reduced viral load, see Figure 2).

Practical conditions
The complex mode of action of the active substances contributes to an improved gut structure and better digestive function. This leads to an optimal utilisation of energy and nutrients needed for maximum animal performance, which could be shown in a series of field trials with research stations and commercial farms in the last ten years.

In this context, the effects on gut morphology and the intestinal environment was investigated in two trials. In both of them, growth performance was improved in the groups fed the feed additive. Larger villi height and crypt depth was reported, which means an increased surface for nutrient absorption. Further research also demonstrated a better nutrient and energy utilisation by supplemented animals. In term of performance, sows fed the phytogenic product range showed to have a reduced back fat loss, improved colostrum and milk contents and improved fertility parameters like shorter weaning to oestrus interval. As a result the progeny performances were improved through better average daily gain of the piglets and improved body weight at weaning. When feeding the phytogenic product range to finishing pigs an improvement of feed conversion was observed.

Some data also show an effect on carcass quality. This is, besides growth performance, one of the most important quality parameters with direct contribution to the profit of the farmer and the slaughterhouse and, therefore, of special interest for integrators.

The effectiveness of capsicum and turmeric oleoresins, carvacrol and cinnamaldehyde on pig performance is evident in the above-described results. The combined effect of these results is to confirm a well-earned place for synergistic combinations of phytonutrients as consistent, science-based, naturallyoccurring performance enhancers for widespread use.

References available on request.