How the pig industry perceives phytogenic feed additives

Over 1,000 agribusiness professionals provided their views on the use of phytogenic feed additives (PFAs) within the framework of the 2017 BIOMIN Phytogenic Feed Additives Survey. The results provide a number of interesting insights regarding the motivations for using PFAs along with some reasons why swine professionals do not currently use botanicals.

Respondents included 111 swine professionals working with breeding herds/piglet production (35 percent), growing-finishing operations (18 percent) and integrations (47 percent) located across 44 countries. The job roles of swine industry respondents included growers/owners (33 percent), veterinarians (23 percent), nutritionists (22 percent), live production managers (14 percent) and consultants (8 percent).


Overall, 41 percent of swine sector respondents indicated that they currently use phytogenics, roughly in line with the figures for poultry respondents and less than the 52 percent reported by consultants, feed millers and feed manufacturers. The sample size, though not sufficient to support claims of representativeness of the findings, does allow for a deeper understanding of the mindset of early-adopters, particularly swine integrators — of whom more than half said they currently use PFAs. Phytogenic feed additives are applied to approximately 5 percent of livestock feed tonnage worldwide.

Figure 1. Do you use phytogenic feed additives? Do you use phytogenic feed additives? 

Digestibility enhancement

Digestibility enhancement was the top reason given for using phytogenic feed additives. The emphasis on digestibility is consistent with the scientific understanding of PFAs going back several decades, though it offers further advantages. Enhanced digestibility means a more complete use of feed —resulting in improved feed efficiency and lower emissions that accompany a reduced environmental footprint.

A clear difference in responses was observed according to respondents’ geography. Those in the Western hemisphere selected antimicrobial effects as the main motivator for PFA use. PFAs have a range of biological properties. Oregano and thyme and their major active compounds — carvacrol and thymol — have known antimicrobial effects.

Growth promoter

Growth promotion ranked third in terms of reasons to use PFAs, while the anti-inflammatory effects ranked seventh. The former may offer an explanation for the latter. According to Theo Niewold, a professor at KU Leuven, biomarkers and "-omics" technologies have demonstrated that effective growth promoters are anti-inflammatory by nature. Plant extracts and essential oils such as clove and rosemary are known to exert anti-inflammatory effects.

The results of the BIOMIN survey provide a number of interesting insights regarding the motivations for using or not using PFAs.

Figure 2. Top reasons that respondents do use PFAs

Figure 3. Top reasons that respondents do not use PFAsTop reasons that respondents do not use PFAs


The survey results pinpoint a number of reasons for the lack of current PFA use. More than a third of respondents had never applied PFAs in their operation. Uncertainty about which product to choose was the main explanation given. This strongly suggests that further education and communication from PFA manufacturers is needed.

One in five respondents said that they had discontinued use of PFAs. For this group, the extra costs associated with PFAs were the main reason given for ceasing application.

Lack of scientific and commercial trial results were also cited. Issues such as awareness, access to products or feed/water application did not appear to play a significant role in the decision to use phytogenics in the swine sector.

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