The Value of Phytogenics in Dairy and Beef Production: Enhancing Performance and Health

Over the years, the livestock industry has progressively sought sustainable and effective alternatives to traditional feed additives. The phytogenic feed additive (PFA) is a rising star in this domain. Originating from plants, these feed supplements encompass herbs, spices, essential oils, and extracts, showcasing many potential benefits for livestock (Karaskova et al., 2015).


Understanding the Phytogenic Impact

Phytogenics are not just another feed additive; they come with various benefits that impact livestock's performance and health positively. Their composition, rich in sensory attributes such as taste and aroma, makes them attractive to animals, potentially increasing feed intake (Matloup et al., 2017; Kholif et al., 2021; Piran Filho et al., 2021). Beyond their sensory properties, they also exhibit potent biological effects, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial activities, which promote gut health (Rodrigues, 2013; Steiner et al., 2015).

Low digestibility can cause gastrointestinal issues and reduce feed efficiency (Krämer-Schmid et al., 2016). Phytogenic feed additives have demonstrated the potential to enhance digestive processes and nutrient availability in various animal species (Da Silva et al., 2017; Takiya et al., 2023). They improve overall animal performance and protein digestibility and mitigate intestinal problems, presenting a viable option for maintaining profitable livestock farming amidst escalating feed costs (Steiner, 2013).


Enhancing Ruminal Fermentation Naturally

High-concentrate diets, crucial for cattle production, pose a risk of lowering ruminal pH, subsequently elevating the danger of subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA) and systemic inflammation (Plaizier et al., 2012; Khorrami et al., 2021). Recent research on incorporating phytogenic additives into cattle feed has shown promise in enhancing ruminal fermentation and reducing inflammation, potentially modulating SARA risk during high-concentrate feeding phases, though a comprehensive understanding and exploration of long-term impacts are still ongoing. (Rivera-Chacon et al., 2022).


Enhancing Dairy Health with Phytogenics

Dairy production, focused on optimizing milk yield and ensuring cows' health, can significantly benefit from these additives. Research highlights the efficacy of phytogenic additives in milk replacers, emphasizing their ability to enhance calf growth, feed intake and improved gut health while providing a cost-efficient alternative to antibiotic growth promoters for addressing livestock production concerns (Aufy et al., 2011). Trials indicate calves receiving plant-based feed additives experienced an 8% increase in body weight gain and a 5% improvement in feed efficiency, requiring only 1.91 kg of feed per kg of body weight gain compared to 2.01 kg in control groups, demonstrating the potential efficacy of PFAs in enhancing bovine growth and feed utilization (Schieder, 2014)

Also, recent research investigated the impact of a phytogenic on heifer calves' dry matter intake, daily gain, and stress markers during and after a bout of heat stress. The study showed that while no improvements in growth were observed, feed intake remained consistent and the additive appeared to mitigate oxidative stress and inflammation during exposure to diurnal summer heat waves (Wickramasinghe et al., 2023).


Impact on Beef Cattle Finishing

Phytogenics, influencing beef production and particularly finishing cattle on high-grain diets, have carved a niche in sustainable livestock management. A study investigating a phytogenic feed additive’s impact on finishing steers' growth, feed intake, carcass traits, fatty acid composition, and liver abscesses revealed a tendency for enhanced average daily gain, albeit without significantly affecting feed intake or severe liver abscess occurrences (Brand et al., 2019).


Beyond the Biological Impact

While the biological benefits of phytogenics are undeniable, other merits exist. Given their natural origin, they present a significant advantage for producers keen on sustainable farming. With the increasing antibiotic resistance and the resulting global mandate to reduce their use in livestock farming, phytogenics offer a promising alternative (Steiner et al., 2015; Groot et al., 2021). The potential of phytogenics to improve feed conversion efficiency directly impacts the bottom line for producers, making them economically attractive (Schieder, 2014). Furthermore, the associated health benefits indirectly contribute to better animal welfare.



Phytogenics, with its multifaceted benefits, has carved a niche for itself in the livestock industry. Both dairy and beef production systems can tap into their potential to enhance performance, health, and profitability. As awareness and understanding expand, one can anticipate a broader industry-wide adoption of phytogenics, firmly establishing their value in livestock production.


Aufy, A.; Steiner, T.; Watkins, M., 2011: What phytogenic additives can do for your calves. International Dairy Topics., 10, 15–17.

Brand, T.; Hünerberg, M.; Mcallister, T. A.; He, M.; Saleem, A. M.; Shen, Y.; Miller, B.; Yang, W., 2019: Impact of a phytogenic feed additive on growth performance, feed intake, and carcass traits of finishing steers. Translational Animal Science., 3, 1162–1172.

Da Silva, C. S.; de Souza, E. J. O.; Pereira, G. F. C.; Cavalcante, E. O.; de Lima, E. I. M.; Torres, T. R.; da Silva, J. R. C.; da Silva, D. C., 2017: Plant extracts as phytogenic additives considering intake, digestibility, and feeding behavior of sheep. Tropical Animal Health and Production., 49, 353–359.

Groot, M. J.; Berendsen, B. J. A.; Cleton, N. B., 2021: The Next Step to Further Decrease Veterinary Antibiotic Applications: Phytogenic Alternatives and Effective Monitoring; the Dutch Approach. Frontiers in Veterinary Science., 8, 709750.

Karaskova, K.; Suchy, P.; Strakova, E., 2015: Current use of phytogenic feed additives in animal nutrition: a review. Czech Journal of Animal Science., 60, 521–530.

Kholif, A. E.; Hassan, A. A.; El Ashry, G. M.; Bakr, M. H.; El-Zaiat, H. M.; Olafadehan, O. A.; Matloup, O. H.; Sallam, S. M. A., 2021: Phytogenic feed additives mixture enhances the lactational performance, feed utilization and ruminal fermentation of Friesian cows. Animal Biotechnology., 32, 708–718.

Khorrami, B.; Khiaosa-Ard, R.; Zebeli, Q., 2021: Models to predict the risk of subacute ruminal acidosis in dairy cows based on dietary and cow factors: A meta-analysis. Journal of Dairy Science., 104, 7761–7780.

Krämer-Schmid, M.; Lund, P.; Weisbjerg, M. R., 2016: Importance of NDF digestibility of whole crop maize silage for dry matter intake and milk production in dairy cows. Animal Feed Science and Technology., 219, 68–76.

Matloup, O. H.; Abd El Tawab, A. M.; Hassan, A. A.; Hadhoud, F. I.; Khattab, M. S. A.; Khalel, M. S.; Sallam, S. M. A.; Kholif, A. E., 2017: Performance of lactating Friesian cows fed a diet supplemented with coriander oil: Feed intake, nutrient digestibility, ruminal fermentation, blood chemistry, and milk production. Animal Feed Science and Technology., 226, 88–97.

Piran Filho, F. A.; Turner, T. D.; Mueller, I.; Daniel, J. L. P., 2021: Influence of Phytogenic Feed Additive on Performance of Feedlot Cattle. Frontiers in Animal Science., 2, 1–9.

Plaizier, J. C.; Khafipour, E.; Li, S.; Gozho, G. N.; Krause, D. O., 2012: Subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA), endotoxins and health consequences. Animal feed science and technology., 172, 9–21.

Rivera-Chacon, R.; Castillo-Lopez, E.; Ricci, S.; Petri, R. M.; Reisinger, N.; Zebeli, Q., 2022: Supplementing a Phytogenic Feed Additive Modulates the Risk of Subacute Rumen Acidosis, Rumen Fermentation and Systemic Inflammation in Cattle Fed Acidogenic Diets. Animals.

Rodrigues, I., 2013: A holistic view on the use of phytogenic feed additives. International Poultry Production., 20, 7–11.

Schieder, C., 2014: Supporting calves with phytogenics for higher performance. International Dairy Topics., 13, 11–13.

Steiner, T., 2013: Phytogenics-digestibility is the key. All About Feed., 21, 28–29.

Steiner, T.; Syed, B., 2015: Phytogenic feed additives in animal nutrition. Medicinal and aromatic plants of the world: Scientific, production, commercial and utilization aspects., 403–423.

Takiya, C. S.; Ribeiro, V. C.; de Almeida, C. V; Bugoni, M.; Vittorazzi Jr, P. C.; Chesini, R. G.; Grigoletto, N. T. S.; de Freitas, A. C.; Vieira, D. J. C.; de Souza, A. H., 2023: Feeding phytogenic ingredients combined or not with Lithothamnium calcareum and a mycotoxin binder to lactating cows: effects on performance, nutrient digestibility, physiological parameters, and nitrogen excretion. Animal Feed Science and Technology., 115718.

Wickramasinghe, H. K. J. P.; Stepanchenko, N.; Oconitrillo, M. J.; Goetz, B. M.; Abeyta, M. A.; Gorden, P. J.; Baumgard, L. H.; Appuhamy, J. A. D. R. N., 2023: Effects of a phytogenic feed additive on weaned dairy heifer calves subjected to a diurnal heat stress bout. Journal of Dairy Science., 106, 6114–6127.

Published on

20 November 2023


  • Ruminants
  • Phytogenics
  • Eubiotics

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