I would like to thank Steve Leeson for his excellent article about Vitamin Levels in Breeder Diets.
I wish to also bring across to the readers of this forum of the potential benefits of using oregano essential oil for its antioxidant properties to protect vitamins in breeder feed.
It is a well known fact that the main cause of loss of activity in vitamins comes from a process known as oxidation, due to the exposure of vitamins to oxygen. This can easily be reversed with the use of suitable antioxidants in feed.
Then there is the question of what type of antioxidants to use in feed. Antioxidants for feed can be categorised into two main groups, the synthetic antioxidants and the natural antioxidants. Synthetic chemicals such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and ethoxyquin are widely used as preservatives but have been linked to liver and kidney dysfunctions as well as allergies and immune system disorders.
Ethoxyquin is a chemical preservative and possible carcinogenic. It is regulated by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) as a pesticide. While ethoxyquin cannot be used in human foods, it continues to be used in livestock feeds around the world. Ethoxyquin has been found to promote kidney carcinogenesis and significantly increase the incidence of stomach tumuors and enhanced bladder carcinogenesis, according to several studies, including a recent one by the Department of Pathology, Nagoya City University Medical School, Japan.
Due to the increased public awareness of the importance of food safety, there is increasing pressure from consumers to discontinue the use of such synthetic chemicals as feed preservatives in livestock feeds.
Therefore, the search for suitable antioxidants derived from natural sources have turned the interest of the industry towards plants and essential oils, which have been known to possess high levels of antioxidant properties for a long time now.
According to Joseph Mercola, whose findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in November 2001, oregano was the herb with the highest antioxidant activity, with 3 to 20 times higher antioxidant activity, compared to all the other herbs studied.
On a per gram fresh weight basis, oregano ranked even higher in antioxidant activity than fruits and vegetables which are known to be high in antioxidants. In comparison to the antioxidant activities of a few fruits and vegetables, oregano had 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries.
An example of an oregano essential oil product is Orego-Stim, produced by Meriden Animal Health Limited (UK). The phenolic compounds within such a product, carvacrol and thymol, are bioflavonoids that act as powerful antioxidants. These help combat free-radical damage, while protecting cells, lipids & vitamins such as A, C and E from the process of peroxidation.
An evaluation of antioxidant activities of different substances and the margin of deterioration of oxidation by UVA – VIS radiation showed that the antioxidant activity of oregano essential oil was higher than those of coriander and rosemary at various concentrations. In fact, it was even higher than ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha tocopherol (vitamin E).
This shows that because carvacrol and thymol are more reactive, they will sacrifice themselves in the presence of a free radical in the peroxidation process, thus protecting valuable antioxidant vitamins and increasing their bioavailability as nutrients for breeder birds dietary use.
As the author has mentioned, the two highest costing vitamins as vitamins A and E. With the use of oregano essential oils, this not only enables lower inclusion levels of these vitamins and thus lowers the cost of vitamin inclusion in breeder feed, but it also provides better breeder performance in terms of egg production, egg quality, hatchability and feed conversion efficiency. Due to its antibacterial properties, it also offers protection from intestinal disease, reduces incidences of diarrhoea and decreases mortality rates.