When animals are given a particular feed, it is given with the intention to benefit the animal the most. However, sometimes animal feeds are not effective and thus do no perform the necessary function for which they are administered. In such a case, feed additives are given. Feed additives are materials that are administered to the animal to enhance the effectiveness of the nutrients and exert their effects in the gut. For long antibiotics has been used in animal nutrition. Feed additives and premixes help in improving the quality of feed and the quality of food from animal origin, or to improve the animals’ performance and health.
Some of the common feed additives given are:
- Antibiotics: Although the primary use of antibiotics is to treat infections, certain antibiotics are also used as feed additives to improve growth and feed conversion efficiency. Antibiotics improve the feed efficiency in ruminant animals.
- Enzymes: Due to the advances in biotechnology, effective enzymes preparations can now be produced in large quantities. The enzymes used as food additives have a number of advantages. Their main purpose is to improve the nutritive value of diets when poor-quality, and usually less expensive, ingredients are incorporated. Enzymes can be added to the diets of ruminants as well as non-ruminants. Enzymes are typically present in pig and poultry diets.
- Probiotics and prebiotics: Probiotics are feed supplements that are added to the diet of farm animals to improve intestinal microbial balance. Probiotics improve the feed efficiency of the animal. It also promotes growth and overall welfare of the animal. It also makes the animals more tolerant of extreme pH and environmental conditions.
- Beta-agonists: The regulations of nutrient use in agricultural animals have led to the development of technologies referred to as metabolic modifiers. Metabolic modifiers are a group of compounds that modify animal metabolism in specific and directed ways. They improve productive efficiency of the animal.
Hence, it is evident from the above that additives used in animal nutrition, such as enzymes, probiotics, single-cell proteins and antibiotics in feed, are already widely used in intensive production systems worldwide to improve the nutrient availability of feeds and the productivity of livestock.