The use of natural resources in livestock is at risk

The use of natural remedies is not well known. However it is widely used. Many compound feeds contain herbs that support health. Livestock farmers also use natural resources to raise their livestock.

It’s not known that animal feed often contains health-promoting herbs, but it’s not new. For several decades, feed manufacturers have been making full use of herbal preparations and other natural resources to support health and improve performance.

Almost all broilers in the Netherlands eat highly seasoned feed. But farmers and consumers usually don’t realize this, says Jan Speerstra of Speerstra Feed Ingredients, who has been active with natural animal feed ingredients for more than 25 years.

picture of goat wool socks

Herbs and natural remedies still have the image of goat wool socks. ‘We don’t really have to come to feed manufacturers with products that haven’t been proven to work,’ says Bert van Bremen of EFS-Holland. He founded his company more than 25 years ago because he saw opportunities for herbal products to have a positive impact, among other things, on the intestinal flora of pigs and the rumen health of cows.

The application of thyme, for example, has become very popular

Willem Snek, Ropapharm International

Van Bremen notes that interest in the potential of natural resources is growing. I expect the number of available resources to increase significantly in the coming years. It is important that companies and governments invest in research to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.


In recent years, there have been many developments around natural resources abroad. “People in countries like China and Japan and also in Germany were more open to using herbs than in the Netherlands,” says Willem Smenk of Ropapharm International.

When I started Smink 25 years ago, nutritionists from feed manufacturers were skeptical. Independent research has changed that. “Using oregano, for example, is becoming very popular.”

a little knowledge

In the animal feed industry, the use of natural resources to maintain the health of animals has been accepted and implemented. But veterinarians still know little about the topic, and that discourages active discussion and research, notes Jerdian Kliger, a veterinarian and natural livestock consultant. “Even the feed consultants who visit the farm often don’t know which additives are in the lots they sell.”

Kleijer would like to see more interest on the farm for the possibilities of keeping animals healthy using natural means. In everyday life, the farmer works with the feed consultant and the veterinarian to keep the animals healthy. In this collaboration, little attention is often paid to herbs and natural resources.

veterinary education

It is recommended that more attention be given to the possibilities of natural remedies in the training of veterinarians. “But you only see the long-term effect, think ten to fifteen years,” says veterinarian Joanna Fink-Gremels. She worked for many years as a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Utrecht.

Providing knowledge about natural resources to young veterinarians already working in the field can have a faster impact. But that doesn’t work either. Young vets are interested, but they usually have busy lives. As a result, it is often difficult to make time for new knowledge,” says Fink-Gremels.

Kleijer also aims to impart knowledge to livestock breeders. They prefer to hear from colleagues about their experiences with a new approach. We respond to this with courses and knowledge meetings.

Natural Remedies Instead of AMGBs

An important reason for the strengthening of animal resistance through foraging by natural means was the disappearance of antimicrobial growth stimulators (AMGBs). In previous decades, it was the norm to add a little antibiotic to compound feed as standard. Animals have successfully dealt with it, but more and more attention has been paid to its negative side effect. Standard use of small amounts of antibiotics increases the chance of developing resistance in bacterial populations. Since 2006, the use of AMGBs in animal feed has been completely banned in the European Union.

The Rietveld family feeds the cows with an herbal mixture. © Olko Vesselink

Marjoline Rietveld: Good experiences in the family guarantee its use in cows

Marjolein Rietveld is looking for possibilities to support animal health by natural means. The reason is the good experiences with this in the family.

Rietveld, who with her husband owns a dairy farm in Brooklyn, Utrecht, talks about research. She derives her knowledge from various sources. “In general, knowledge in this area is limited, but our agricultural supply resource is interested in this topic.”

The Rietveld family vet is also studying this issue. It also ensures that natural resources become part of the company’s treatment plan.

Normal and normal combi

Rietveld emphatically notes that it doesn’t work without regular medication. For example, when a cow has pneumonia, it is treated with antibiotics. But this combined with the natural resources that provide additional support to the cow. “Our goal is to reduce the use of ordinary materials.”

Dairy farmers have been adding herbs to the ration during barn season for a year now. They also use garlic potions. We hope to increase cows’ resilience. This should, among other things, reduce cows with claw problems and improve fertility and udder health.

Rietveld describes the impact of this as difficult to measure. The truth is, we had fewer Mortellaro, fewer heat-sprayed cows, and there were fewer cases of mastitis. But it may also be because we cross into Jersey to breed a more powerful herd.

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