Plants promise disease control

Plant extracts could soon be included in silage rations in the next five years to help control E coli 0157 and listeria, as well as reduce methane production.

A consortium of independent scientists and private companies has isolated three plant extracts that could greatly improve rumen efficiency.

The work is part of a Welsh Development Agency funded project which aims to develop small businesses in mid Wales that produce extracts from locally grown plants for a wide range of uses.

Existing companies supplied chemicals for testing in labs at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research and Aberystwyth University’s Department of Animal Science.

The joint initiative was looking for chemicals that controlled E coli 0157 and listeria, reduced methane production and limited protein destruction.

Of the 2500 extracts tested over the last two years, using RUSTEC artificial rumens, three have shown real promise and, if the results are verified and economics are good, these could be incorporated in silage additives or rations within five years.

Extracts of garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and daffodils were among those evaluated, but the scientists involved are not prepared to reveal which trio of chemicals proved effective.

“The companies already producing extracts for sale to a range of users did not have the money to do this sort of research into their agricultural potential,” says Jamie Newbold of Aberystwyth University.

But efficient rumen nutrition is important for farmers and the environment, he added.

“Methane makes up 20% of greenhouse gasses and on average 25% of it comes from the breath of ruminants.

This represents a big loss of energy.”

IGER’s Mike Theoderou sees huge potential for using plant extracts to improve efficiency of animal production, for use as pharmaceuticals and in the food industry.

“There is potential for farmers to gain commercially from growing the plants involved,” he claims.