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Are essential oils the key to reducing antibiotics in poultry?

2 February 2016  •  Author(s): Victoria White

Cargill researchers have been researching the use of non-medicated feed additives for several years as an alternative to antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) in poultry.

essential oils

The company has performed cross-additive research and determined the most beneficial types of feed additives for individual customer needs. For consistent performance improvement, essential oils turned out to be a key solution because they impact all four key gut function areas.

Since 2009, a combined total of 77 comprehensive in vitro and in vivo trials have been conducted at Cargill’s Animal Nutrition Innovation Centres on additives including essential oils, probiotics, yeast derivatives and medium chain fatty acids (MCFA).  

Gut health is important in poultry production because the digestive system performs key functions essential to ensuring birds’ optimum performance. While all additives studied showed some benefit, Cargill researchers found that selected essential oil compounds, particularly those derived from thyme, cinnamon and oregano, had the most comprehensive effect on overall gut health. Benefits included:

  • Antimicrobial activity
  • Modulation of immune response
  • Antioxidant activity
  • Improvement of nutrient digestibility
  • Stimulation of mucus production

“Only essential oils have both a broad spectrum of activity against pathogens and a direct impact on digestive function,” said Stephanie Ladirat, global technology lead for gut health additives in Cargill’s animal nutrition business.

Essential oils viable alternative to antibiotics 

In addition, essential oils were found to be particular efficient in conditions where intestinal infections such as Salmonellosis and Coccidiosis were present. They were also found to be a viable alternative to antibiotics as more than 85 percent of the results showed a minimal difference between the positive control (antibiotics) and essential oils.

The research also showed that essential oils are just one facet of a feeding program that promotes ideal gut health and allows antibiotic reduction. Research findings support combining essential oils with organic acids to get maximum efficacy.

“Cargill’s local nutrition experts are working directly with poultry producers to develop customized, holistic feeding programs encompassing nutrition, additives and farm management based on the study results,” says Twan Van Gerwe, poultry R&D director in Cargill’s animal nutrition business.

Combined study results from 12 trials demonstrated that birds given Cargill’s PROMOTE Biacid Nucleus additive, which contains a proprietary mixture of seven carefully selected essential oil compounds, in combination with an antibiotic-free diet, consistently improves body weight gain by 2 percent and feed conversion by 1.5 percent, producing a return on investment (ROI) of 5:1 for producers.

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