Essential Oils and Organic Acids: Natural Alternatives to Antibiotics

Posted: September 3, 2020 | Written By: Dr. Mark Whitney, Swine Nutrition and Production Specialist

essential oils

Antibiotics and medications have been important tools necessary to prevent, control, and treat diseases in swine.  By working with veterinarians when using antibiotics, pork producers ensure that sickness does not spread rapidly on a farm, potentially endangering not only the health and welfare of the animals but also the safety of our food.  Increasing public scrutiny related to antibiotic use in livestock production has resulted in a significant reduction in the types and amount of antibiotics that can be used, while increasing the oversight and paperwork required to do so (VFDs).  Although initially viewed negatively, many producers have since used the change in rules from FDA as an opportunity to review antibiotic usage on their farms with their veterinarians, resulting in a reduction in amount used and more strategic application.

Minimizing antibiotic usage on the farm can be beneficial in reducing cost, but has also negatively reduced growth and reproductive efficiency in many cases.  Sows and young piglets, in particular, have a high susceptibility to various stressors in their environment, including pathogens, oxidative stress, and inflammation, which in the past have been controlled in large part through antibiotic intervention, minimizing their impact on reducing performance, increasing morbidity and mortality, and overall compromising animal welfare.

In recent years, considerable research has focused on identifying and qualifying alternatives to antibiotics to maintain swine health and performance.  The most widely researched alternatives include prebiotics, probiotics, diet acidifiers, plant extracts, neutraceuticals, and essential oils.  Essential oils are aromatic liquids obtained from plants that have bioactive compounds, with the most studied and potentially beneficial for swine production being carvacrol, thymol, cinnamaldehyde, and eugenol.  It has been demonstrated that essential oils have good potential as antibiotic alternatives in swine feeds, although variability in results when essential oils are fed occur largely due to differences in essential oil type used and dose provided.  Additionally, the combination of essential oils with organic acids has been shown to improve the consistency and efficacy of performance and health benefits.

Form-A-Feed has recently launched a next-generation feed additive, Villipro® XL, that builds off the original Villipro line, and contains a proprietary blend of essential oils and organic acids.  Formulated to minimize cost while providing consistent benefits to animal health and performance, Villipro XL is a natural oregano-based feed ingredient designed to be fed to sows, nursery, and grow-finish pigs.  Controlled research studies combined with field experience have demonstrated a number of benefits, including:

  • Stimulation of appetite
  • Suppression of pathogens in gastro-intestinal tract
  • Support of immune system
  • Improvement of digestion of feed
  • Enhanced surface area and function of villi lining the gut, leading to increased nutrient absorption
  • Increased growth and more efficient feed conversion in the growing pig
  • More viable and heavier piglets weaned when fed to sows

The antimicrobial, antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory effects of the oregano essential oil and organic acid blend in Villipro XL, along with feed palatability enhancement and improvement in gut growth and health, provides pork producers with a natural antibiotic alternative to maintain animal health and welfare while economically ensuring maximal growth and feed efficiency.  Click here for more information on this exciting next-generation product, including trial results, or contact your local Form-A-Feed representative.