Future trends and conclusion

Plants extracts include a wide range of compounds with potential application in ruminants feeding. In particular essential oils, tannins and saponins have been proven to display mechanisms that modify the rumen fermentation and improve animal production. This mostly includes more efficient use of dietary protein and energy and decreased methane emissions, which sometimes result in increased milk yield or liveweight gain. However, despite extensive research conducted in the last decades, the use of plant extracts as feed additives in ruminant livestock is still limited by several factors. In addition to those related to highly variable composition and dosage used, the lack of robust in vivo studies that confirm the outcomes observed in vitro is one of the main barriers. Transferring the dosage used in vitro to in vivo conditions is challenging, but without such studies the implementation of a supplementary successful strategy at farm level is not possible. Another important factor to consider is the duration of the in vivo tests. While many treatments (i.e. saponins) failed to have persistent effects, others (i.e. essential oils) need a longer time of exposure to achieve a sustained improvement in productivity.

Future research needs to strength the collaboration between animal feed companies, including those developing and providing additives with plant extracts, and scientists to make use of existing on-farm data and to better understand the effect of plant extracts on animal health and performance.


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Chapter 22_

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