Spices in animal feed

Spices are plant extracts that are regularly used in our daily lives. In addition to their taste, they have many other properties for which they have been used by humans for centuries. Spices combine the useful with the pleasant !
In animal feed, they are becoming more and more present. In particular, chillies from the Capsicum family are recognised for their numerous beneficial effects on intake and water consumption in situations of heat stress. But chilli is not the only 'hot' spice of interest to farm animals. Several other compounds are proving equally relevant.

The definitions of a spice are many and varied. Spice" refers to a large category of ingredients of plant origin used in various forms:
-       Powder
-       Grains
-       Oils
-       Dried fruits
The adjective "spicy" refers to a flavour that is more pungent and hot.
This burning sensation is caused by different molecules contained in these spices: it is the pseudo-heat. The sensation of temperature change is triggered by the activation of buccal receptors connected to trigeminal nerves. This mechanism is chemesthetic: the sensation is induced by a sensitive perception - not taste or smell: change in temperature, texture or pain. The sensation can be cold (menthol) or hot (mustard, garlic, chilli): this is what is often called "spicy".
Excluded from the 'spice' category are ingredients extracted from the stems and leaves, which are referred to as 'aromatics' or aromatic herbs.
One might think that the spicy taste would cause animals to reject it. This is because the molecules that cause the burning sensation are secondary plant defence metabolites. Taste is one of the senses used to determine the danger of consuming a plant. But it is all a matter of dosage. Some molecules are known to have an appetising effect, even in animals. The consumption of certain spice mixtures, stimulated by this aperitive action, leads to a hedonic effect (pleasure seeking and avoidance of suffering) pushing the animals to a state of "well-being". But not mastering this mixture well can also lead to the opposite effect.
In the same way as in human food, spices are of interest through their neurosensory and physiological action.
If chilli and in particular its capsaicin are used for their vasodilator effect (evacuation of heat), ginger, for example, has sialogogue properties (increasing the production of saliva). Turmeric, the "miracle spice", is equally effective in animals for its protection of the intestine, and is a means of combating oxidative stress. Spices are also great allies for digestion. Many of them, such as pepper, ginger and turmeric, are known for their ability to stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes (lipase, amylase, protease), which promote efficient digestion and, in particular, regulate blood sugar and lipid levels, thus promoting an optimal metabolic state. Finally, they strengthen the intestinal barrier against pathogens, facilitating the management of common problems in livestock farming such as coccidiosis.
If these spices are interesting, they can be found in several forms and extracts on the market. But using them is not easy; care must be taken when handling them and an appropriate dosage must be used. It is therefore necessary to find the right balance between palatability, benefit and, of course, spiciness for your pet. Poor control of this dosage can sometimes lead to animals refusing to eat or to situations of great discomfort or even burns for those handling these powders. Here again, the know-how of companies, particularly in terms of asset protection, is essential. Moreover, spices have their individual properties, but using them together can multiply their respective benefits, while lowering their dosages. It's all about synergy !


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