Phytobiotics may be explained as plant derived products added to the feed in order to improve performance of agricultural livestock.
This definition addresses mainly the purpose of use in terms of a feed additive to healthy animals under common practical conditions of production of food of animal origin rather than the veterinary use.
According to this definition, phytobiotics comprise are very wide range of substances with respect to biological origin, formulation, chemical description and purity.
Within this variety, some subgroups may be classified, such as herbs (product from flowering, non-woody and nonpersistent plants), botanicals (entire or processed parts of a plant, e.g. root, leaves, bark), essential oils (hydro distilled extracts of volatile plant compounds), and oleoresins (extracts based on non-aqueous solvents).
The active compounds of phytobiotics are secondary plant constituents. Their primary mode of action is often not known sufficiently to explain the final effects in vivo, especially since phytobiotics usually contain mixtures of
compounds with beneficial and potentially adverse effects, depending on the nature and the dose of the respective substances.
Nevertheless, common knowledge from folk medicine and recent experiences from feeding studies give significant rise to accept the principal potential of phytobiotics to significantly improve zootechnical performance in agricultural livestock.
The following paper describes shortly some major effects addressed to phytobiotics used as feed additive to monogastric agricultural livestock in an exemplified way without addressing the wide variety of classes of
Phytobiotics, especially those from the group of essential oils are often claimed to improve flavour and palatability of feed and hence to raise performance of monogastrics agricultural livestock through stimulation of feed intake.
Indeed, there are numerous reports on positive effects, but also on depression of feed intake especially at rising dietary additions of these substances (e.g. Rodehutscord and Kluth 2002).
Besides the problem to identify the optimum dietary concentration within the vast variety of potentially active substances, the varying contents of concomitant compounds with potentially adverse impact on palatability may additionally modify the total effect on feed intake
The latter seems to be the case especially when using intact parts of herbs compared to plant extracts providing a more standardized composition. In total, the mode of action to stimulate feed intake remains unclear, since in contrast e.g. to sweeteners, rising additions of phytobiotics often reduce palatability. In some cases it may be hypothesized that higher feed intake might results indirectly of e.g. from a higher saliva production rather than a better taste of feed per se.
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Article made possible through the contribution of World Nutrition Forum-Biomin.