The potential of oregano as a natural herb to replace antibiotic growth promoters has been long overlooked. Oregano-based feed additives have been used in worldwide poultry production for some time. Oregano essential oil has been extensively researched and tested, and is able to increase the performance of poultry production by improving broiler performance. It also helps to reduce mortality caused by gastrointestinal diseases by preventing the occurrences of gastrointestinal pathogen invasion.
The phenolic compounds within oregano oil, carvacrol and thymol, effectively kill these microorganisms upon contact within the gut of the animal, and these include both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. The phenolic effect is through their activity on the bacterial cell wall, by denaturing and coagulating the protein within the cell wall structure. More specifically, phenols interact with the cytoplasmic membrane by changing its permeability for cations like H (+) and K (+). The dissipation of ion gradients leads to impairment of essential processes within the cell, causing leakage of cellular constituents, which result in water imbalance and finally cell death. In contrast to antibiotic growth promoters, there has been no evidence of bacterial resistance from using oregano oil.
Coccidiosis is an age-old problem that can result in subclinical syndromes such as impaired feed conversion, poor flock uniformity and poor performance. It is one of the most severe health and welfare problems in poultry. The continuous use of anticoccidials and the many types of ionophores in commercial poultry-rearing has also led to development of resistance and has given rise to multiple drug-resistant strains of coccidia in the field. But now the problem can be solved by the use of oregano essential oil.
Oregano essential oil can be used to control coccidiosis in all phases of poultry production. To effectively control coccidiosis, the phenolic compounds within oregano speed up the process of the normal shedding of enterocytes from the intestinal mucosae, causing a disruption in the life cycle of Eimeria spp. and as a result, the protozoa are not able to complete its life cycle to cause either clinical or subclinical disease. Moreover, use of oregano essential oil will eventually lead to a reduced usage of coccidiostats and thus prevent coccidia from developing resistance, which is a problem faced by many.
In Turkey, oregano products are widely used to replace AGPs and coccidiostats in the broiler production cycle. In a commercial field trial conducted in a large poultry integrator in Bolu, such an oregano-based product (Orego-Stim, Meriden Animal Health Ltd.) was used during the withdrawal feed period.
Prior to the inclusion of the oregano-based product, birds were suffering from pasty vent and blood-stained droppings, typical of a mixed coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis infection. These clinical signs were present despite the inclusion of antibiotic growth promoters and coccidiostats before the withdrawal feed period.
In their place, oregano was able to perform its function of providing growth-enhancing and anticoccidial properties as well as having extra benefits for the birds, such as resolving the diarrhoea, reducing mortality, improving body weight gain, feed efficiency and increasing the performance of the treatment group (see tables 1 - 3). This resulted in a higher profitability for the broiler producers.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Meriden Animal Health