What Dozens of Poultry Trials Tell Us about Phytogenics and Profitability

Our scientific understanding of the application of phytogenics, or botanicals, has progressed considerably over the past decades. At the same time, our practical experience has grown as we partner with feed and livestock producers to achieve better outcomes through Phytogenic Feed Additive (PFA) application. At BIOMIN we have conducted 64 field trials on PFA supplementation in different poultry species over the years. Here we examine results over the past 5 years.

What is a Phytogenic Feed Additive

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The science

Plant-based compounds – specifically essential oils of herbs and spices – are known to have a narrow range of biologically active properties that can be applied in modern animal production. These include anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and digestion enhancing effects, among others.

The mode of action of PFAs in livestock is backed by academic research. Essential oils may possibly improve the immune status in birds (Reisinger et al., 2011). PFA supplementation in broiler diets has been shown to improve the digestibility of protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus (Amad et al., 2011, Mountzouris et al., 2011). Most importantly, the addition of PFAs can improve performance and productivity of birds by improving feed conversion (Windisch et al., 2008).

In addition to scientific backing, practical, commercial field trials under different production conditions attest to the benefits of Phytogenics.

Trial results: broilers

The results of 17 field trials with broilers in the last 5 years from locations across the world show that the productivity and economy of the broiler production can be improved by adding Digestarom® to the feed.

Figure 1. Summary of broiler trials with Digestarom®, performance improvement (%)

Source: BIOMIN

Across all 17 broiler trials, the average gains from using Digestarom® were improvements of 3.6% in body weight, of 4.6% in the feed conversion ratio (FCR) and of 9.5% in the productivity index (put correct name of the Index) (= % Livability x kg Live weight / age in days / FCR x100).

The return on the investment reaches as high as 5:1 depending on the particular trial. In addition to performance parameters, carcass and meat quality parameters as breast meat yield, final pH and drip loss were also improved — by 1.3%, 1.7% and 10.7%, respectively. These parameters are not to be overlooked, as the meat quality gains can boost the economic result of PFA supplementation by a further 10% — as in a recent case with an integrator that processes 50 million birds per year.

Figure 2. Broiler meat quality improvements (%) with Digestarom®
Source: BIOMIN

Furthermore, when looking at emissions, the broiler producers experienced lower CO2, NH3 and odor emission levels in their poultry houses as a direct consequence of the better digestibility of the nutrients. As more nutrients are absorbed in the gut, there is less wastage to the slurry, consequently less bacterial ammonia formation into the environment. From both a labor and animal welfare standpoint, this provides a further benefit for both, workers and animals.

Trial results: breeders and layers

In 11 commercial breeder and layer trials, the effect of Digestarom® on the gastrointestinal tract manifested itself in more eggs produced, better egg characteristics, better hatchability.

Figure 3. Breeders and layers perform better with Digestarom®

Source: BIOMIN

Across 11 trials, the laying rate improved by 2.6% and the FCR improved by minus 4.5% on average with Digestarom® supplemented to the feed.

Another interesting finding in these trials: despite the larger average egg size, the breaking strength of the eggshells did not decrease, which should be a consequence of better digestibility of minerals in the feed.


Amad, A. A., K. Manner, K. R. Wendler, K. Neumann, and J. Zentek. 2011. Effects of a phytogenic feed additive on growth performance and ileal nutrient digestibility in broiler chickens. Poult. Sci. 90:2811–2816.

Mountzouris, K. C., V. Paraskevas, P. Tsirtsikos, I. Palamidi, T. Steiner, G. Schatzmayr, and K. Fegeros. 2011. Assessment of a phytogenic feed additive effect on broiler growth performance, nutrient digestibility and caecal microflora composition. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 168:223–231.

Reisinger, N., T. Steiner, S. Nitsch, and G. Schatzmayr, Applegate. 2011. Effects of a blend of essential oils on broiler performance and intestinal morphology during coccidial vaccine exposure. J. Appl. Poult. Res. 20:272–283.

Windisch, W., K. Schedle, C. Plitzner, and A. Kroismayr. 2008. Use of phytogenic products as feed additives for swine and poultry. J. Anim. Sci. 86:E140–E148.