Minimize ammonia emissions by the power of phytogenic feed additives


Ammonia is formed through bacterial and enzymatic decomposition of nitrogen compounds, mainly of urea in the slurry. If aerial ammonia gets in contact with mucous membranes in the respiratory system of animals or humans, it causes destruction of the mucosal surface and the intrinsic mucosal barrier against infectious agents in the affected areas drops. Therefore, animals become more prone to respiratory diseases such as Rhinitis and Pneumonia, associated with increasing medical costs and animal performance losses.


It is clear that high aerial ammonia concentrations adversely affect the animal’s well-being. As shown in a trial of the HBLFA Gumpenstein (Austria), ammonia concentrations over 40 ppm prolong the fattening period by up to 6 days: Daily weight gain declines by max 7% and in addition, feed conversion ratio worsens by max 9%. Not a good basis for successful animal production. On top, people living in the direct surroundings of swine farms file complaints about odor emission, which require large investments to reduce ammonia concentrations in exhaust air. The addition of saponin-containing phytogenic feed additives (PFA) to swine diets is a proven strategy to reduce ammonia emissions in animal production.


Farmer and sows

Delacon has performed many trials in its own Performing Nature Research Center (PNRC, Znojmo, Czech Republic), to determine the effect of PFAs on growth performance and ammonia emission. Photo: © Delacon


Saponins (from latin sapo, soap) have been used for centuries in human medicine as a “biologic detergent”. In addition, saponins can be used to reduce ammonia production. Several mechanisms of ammonia reduction by saponins are discussed: Direct binding of ammonia and an inhibition of enzymes involved in the urea degradation. Combining management strategies, phase-feeding and the use of saponin-containing PFAs are effective approaches to reduce ammonia emissions in barns.

More means less


Delacon has performed many trials in its own Performing Nature Research Center (PNRC, Znojmo, Czech Republic), to determine the effect of PFAs on growth performance and ammonia emission. For accurate measurement of ammonia, pigs were housed in air tight climate chambers, equipped with a multi gas monitoring system INNOVA 1412. Each of the 12 chambers can house up to 27 piglets or 9 grower/finisher pigs. Trials at our own research center and external institutes showed that the addition of our saponin-containing PFAs reduced ammonia emission in all phases of swine production.


For example, in finisher pigs from 80 to 125 kg, dietary addition of two dietary inclusion levels of a saponin-rich PFA reduced ammonia emission (per kg body weight gain) by 19% and 26% for the low and high dietary PFA dose level compared to the control (Figure 1). As the PFA core without saponins improves protein digestion and amino acid utilization, it already reduces ammonia emission. However, the ammonia reducing effect was strongly supported by the saponin source. In both starter (6.5 to 20 kg) and grower pigs (23 to 62 kg), a similar reduction in ammonia emissions was observed with 29% and 21%, respectively, compared to an unsupplemented control diet.


Detailed references and further information are available from the author on request.


Graphic about saponins and ammonia emission reduction

Fig. 1: Effect of a PFA rich in saponins on aerial ammonia emissions in pigs

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