Canadian Poultry Magazine

What’s new in poultry feed

By Treena Hein   

Features Nutrition and Feed

Our annual nutrition update delves into the latest trends in the industry, including the growing adoption of antibiotic alternatives.

Anthony Dick is one of many producers across Canada currently trying out phytogenic feed additives. PHOTO CREDIT: Trouw Nutrition

Anthony Dick, who runs his family’s third-generation broiler operation, Tandem Grove Farms in Chilliwack, B.C., is one of many producers across Canada currently trying out a phytogenic feed additive (PFA) on their flocks. 

PFAs represent the biggest current trend in feed, but they are far from new. Over the last few decades these substances have undoubtedly been the main focus of feed research, says Dr. Bertrand Medina, technical manager at Probiotech International in Saint-Hyacinthe, QC. 

PFAs are described as plant-derived bioactive compounds, including extracts like saponins and essential oils, capable of improving many aspects of livestock health and productivity. Through boosting nutrient digestibility and energy availability of feed, and through their other unique properties, PFAs can boost immune system function and disease resistance, improve the gut microbiome, decrease pathogen prevalence and much more. 


Dick has trialed a PFA called Selko Synerco from Trouw Nutrition with two consecutive flocks. These trials have taken place in one of the farm’s barns that’s served as a research barn since the 1990s. 

Conditions are monitored closely, and the broilers are pen-housed but otherwise live under commercial conditions. All the farm’s broilers are fed from the Chilliwack feed mill (with Trouw Nutrition products since they’ve been available in Chilliwack). 

Synerco is a blend of oregano, cinnamon, and essential oils. Trouw Senior Researcher Dr. Stephanie Torrey explains that it helps in the maintenance of normal gut mucosa and contributes to healthy digestive functions and metabolism in poultry. 

“It helps increase body weight gain while improving feed conversion,” she says. “Synerco can be combined with other products, including high copper and/or organic acids, and it can be used in antibiotic-free production systems as well as organic production systems.”

Dick has seen several positive performance benefits from feeding Synerco, including increased growth and improved feed efficiency. “As the industry continues to move away from using antibiotics in a preventative manner, we need to continue to look for alternatives to antibiotics,” he says. “Synerco seems like a good alternative. I haven’t used it anywhere else yet, but I would love to try it in the other barn to see if it improves performance there as well.” 

Other PFAs
Michael Foti, director at Phibro Animal Health in Guelph, Ont. agrees that PFAs have gained traction in the animal nutrition sector due to numerous natural benefits. Phibro offers a unique combination of quillaja, a bark extract of the soapbark tree, and yucca, a hardy desert plant. 

These ingredients have individual benefits but their combination results in a synergistic, enhanced effect, says Foti. Over the past five years, Phibro Animal Health has conducted more than 40 studies on the combination, several of which have been published in peer-reviewed publications.  

“Their combination can aid in better digestion and nutrient absorption,” Foti explains. “Research has also shown that when quillaja and yucca combination is fed at recommended inclusion rates, poultry are better able to defend themselves against important intestinal pathogens.”

In addition, he says both Quillaja saponaria and Yucca shidigera contain polyphenols which have shown potential anti-inflammatory effects that “can be beneficial in reducing stress and promoting overall animal wellbeing.” 

Meanwhile, the Probiotech R&D team has designed specific PFA formulas for supporting raised-without-antibiotics or raised-without-medically-important-antimicrobials broiler programs. 

Medina explains that in 2022, Dr. Carl Julien, a research scientist at Deschambault Animal Sciences Research Center (CRSAD) in QC, developed a set of in-vitro methods for finely evaluating anticoccidial capacities of drugs and their alternatives. 

He demonstrated the potential of a formulation of essential oils, Yucca Schidigera pulp and polyphenols to alter Eimeria pathogenicity in-vitro and reduce coccidiosis impact in both Eimeria-vaccinated or non-vaccinated broilers.

Medina also reports that “recently, Candice Blue, a PhD student at University of Georgia in the U.S., assessed a commercial blend of etheric (rich in terpenes) and functional vegetable oils (rich in medium chain fatty acids) on performance and tight junction proteins in broiler chickens during a necrotic enteritis challenge and concluded that this tested PFA might be considered as a potential alternative to alleviate disease effects.”

Other current feed trends

Unique enzyme production
Solid state fermentation is being used by Alltech to produce unprecedented complexes of synergistic enzymes made by fungi. One complex has been formulated to achieve “improved nutrient release through the breakdown of indigestible portions of the diet, such as non-starch polysaccharides and phytic acid,” explains Dr. Kayla Price, poultry technical manager for Alltech Canada. 

“The second-generation enzyme complex developed through solid state fermentation improves the energy, phosphorous and calcium release of previous versions.  This complex can be used in both corn and wheat-based diets for all poultry and supports greater flexibility in feed reformulation and enhances the use of alternative raw materials, resulting in improved cost savings, more efficient feed utilization and maintaining performance. 

“Since the development and release of this technology, research trials have been completed in pullets, broilers, and layers, with upcoming work in turkeys.” 

Premix quality
Dr. Tanka Khanal, poultry nutritionist at Grand Valley Fortifiers in Ontario, notes a trend of using higher-quality premixes. “Premix companies and poultry nutritionists are investing more and more in technologies and knowledge on better mineral stability and relatively higher bioavailability,” Khanal says. “Hence, the way of manufacturing a quality premix is being redefined. The possibility for negative interaction of components in premix is more focused and will continue in the days to come.”

Processed animal protein
Khanal also points to research into by-products from processed chicken meat that can be used in poultry feed. This may lead to substantial use in future. “Plasma, feather meal is heavily researched to see if can be used as a sustainable source of feed ingredients,” he says. “Researchers are also working on several fibre fractions of co-products to potentially utilize as nutraceuticals,” which are components with health-promoting or disease protection properties.

Water products
Just this summer, Trouw Nutrition also introduced Selko ProHydro+, a blend of organic acids that effectively reduces and stabilizes drinking water pH, promoting intestinal health and digestion. 

Holistic view
Khanal also observes that nowadays in Canada, the poultry production system has embraced a holistic nutritional program approach. This includes a greater integration of nutrition, health, performance and economics. 

“This integrated nutrition, health and welfare (both producer and poultry) approach is trending to switch feed from least cost to best cost,” he explains. “With this, the road map of the poultry industry will strive for less protein in feed and better digestibility of nutrients. 

“This will move forward to a more environment-friendly and sustainable production system with less use of antibiotics or alternatives. The feed efficiency and profit per kilo of meat, per dozens of eggs, or per chick hatched will matter more than just total profit.” 

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