Medicinal plants help animals digest better

Published: Sunday 30 September 2007

-- (Credit: AGNIMIRH BASU / CSE)medicinal plants have traditionally been used as part of animal feed to enhance nutrition and treat digestive disorders.

In a recent experiment it was found that drumsticks (Moringa oleifera) and kutki (Picrorhiza kurroa) help animals--cattle, goats and sheep--most when added to their feed. The experiment brought to light that animals fed with small amounts of the plants produced more protein and less methane.

Cattle are not able to extract 'more' from feed naturally because of fermentation caused by microbes present in the rumen. Fermentation disrupts the breakdown of the feed and leads to inefficient utilisation of energy and nitrogen.Increasing fibre digestion, propionate production, yield and efficiency of microbial protein synthesis and decreasing bio-methanation, extensive dietary protein degradation and predation of rumen bacteria by protozoa are the possible ways to improve overall efficiency of energy and protein utilisation in ruminants under roughage-based feeding systems.

A group of scientists at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Palampur, found that drumsticks lead to a decrease in gas production, volatile fatty acids, acetate propionate and ammonia but increased the efficiency of synthesis of crude proteins by microbes. And kutki reduced degradation of crude proteins in the rumen.

The authors, however, suggest that the results are preliminary and should be validated at different doses using more accurate in vitro and in vivo methods. The results are part of a long-term project being carried out by the institute under which more than 30 medicinal plants have already been systematically screened to identify potential feed additives to improve efficiency of feed utilisation and productivity.

"The feeding strategies for enhancing livestock production not only for domestic consumption but for export of livestock products as well, commensurate with international consumer preferences and environmental concerns is a first step towards organic livestock production," says A Sahoo, a member of the research team. The result of the study are to be published in a special issue of the journal Animal Feed Science and Technology, which deals with enzymes, direct fed microbials and plant extracts in animal nutrition.

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