We all want to live long and healthy life. And that’s simply not possible without a high-quality and safe food, including animal products. Animals deserve our attention in all aspects of their life and beneficial nutrition allows them to be fit and healthy. Their fitness helps to move towards one of the most burning goals — reduction of antibiotic use in the farm animals’ diet; not only because of the antibiotic resistance issues but also due to our pursuit to regain the eluding environmental welfare.
Increasing demand for the safe products encouraged experts to reach for the feed supplements from natural resources. Many plants and algae, popularly labeled as superfoods, have high nutritional value and contain bioactive substances that can boost the immunity of animals. Some of them have already been successfully tested as an alternative to the use of antibiotics, proving health and production benefits.
Moringa oleifera has not yet been extensively studied as the feed supplement in animal nutrition, however the existing scientific studies confirm its nutritive and protective value for the animals. Improved health, resistance to diseases and higher protein uptake promoted growth and productivity of the studied animals, resulting in higher financial gains, an important factor for the smallholder farmers.
The moringa leaves and seeds are highly nutritious due to their high content of proteins, lipids, amino acids (including the essential ones), vitamins (A, B, C, E, K), minerals (Ca, Fe, Mg, Mn, K, S, Na, Zn, Cu) and have numerous bioactive compounds (alkaloids (moringine), phenolic acids, sterols, polyphenols, flavonoids, glucosinolates, terpenoids, glycosides, kaempferol glucosides, …) with anti-oxidative, antibiotic and anti-fungal activity. Active components like niaziridin can additionally improve the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other micro nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract (1), improving their advantageous action.
Higher quality and production
Moringa has a great potential as a feed resource for smallholder farmers in the countries where it is easily available (mostly African countries and India). An important advantage is that it can grow in dry, nutrient deprived areas and in the periods when other green fodder is not available. Cattle, goat and sheep, rabbits and pigs can easily eat green leaves and stems of moringa, greatly reducing the costs of their meals.
Studies show that moringa leaves can be excellent dietary supplement. Not only do chicken grow better, hens can lay more eggs which are of higher quality (2). Fresh leaves, extract and meals of moringa leaves and seeds increased egg production, egg weight, the yolk was darker and the chickens were heavier in the study of Briones and co-workers (2). Positive effects were significant already at 5% moringa leaf meal or with supplement of 100 mL moringa leaves extract in 1 litre of water. The supplementation of moringa seed meal in the diet of Babcock layers reduced the percentage of broken eggs.
Moringa in cattle’s diet increased the weight gain up to 60%, along with the increased feed and protein intake in calves (3). Moringa supplementation resulted in the highest average body weight gain in Bengal goats (3). In addition, higher nutrient intake and improved digestibility were observed when moringa leaves were used as a fodder (2,3). Moringa leaves are a good protein source that can replace soybean and rapeseed meals for ruminants, and are able to improve the microbial protein synthesis in the rumen (4).
More studies are needed to determine the most favourable concentrations and combinations of moringa supplements. They can be easily combined with regular feed for better nutrition. For example, one of the studies with pigs reports that the ideal feed combination was 70% moringa, 10% leucaena and 20% other leaves (3). Moringa leaves mixed with 20% and 50% batiki grass can improve dry matter intake, constituting a mixture with high digestibility of dry mass and crude protein (4).
Although there are not many reports of using M. oleifera leaves as immunomodulator, it has been shown that it could be recommended as an immune buster treatment against the Newcastle virus in non-vaccinated birds (5). Improvement of immune response and antioxidative activity has also been shown in several other studies with poultry (6). Extracts from M. oleifera leaves, containing isothiocyanates and glycosidecyanides (1), substances with possible anticancer activity (7), were shown to boost the immune response in chickens.
One of the concerns of using moringa as a feed supplement are several anti-nutritional factors (ANF), such as tannins, phytates, oxalates and cyanide, which may affect normal digestion and metabolism of nutrients in animals (1,3,4). Moringa leaf meal as a protein source in fish diets is limited due to presence of high levels of ANFs, particularly saponins and to a lesser extent tannin, phytic acid and hydrogen cyanide (3). Anti-nutritional or even toxic compounds are indeed a common problem when using trees in the animal feed, nevertheless the moringa leaves are unique due to their tremendous amounts of minerals that reduce the effects of already low or even negligible amounts of harmful compounds (4). Tannins and phytates in moringa can be neutralized by different feed processing techniques, including chopping, socking, heat steaming, and fermentation with beneficial organisms (4).
All in all, current studies manifest that moringa has better nutritional quality than other leafy vegetables used in animal feed and further studies on the optimisation of the meals including moringa are worthwhile indeed.
1. Mahfuz S., Piao X.S. (2019): Application of Moringa(Moringa oleifera) as Natural Feed Supplement in Poultry Diets. Animals 9: 431; doi:10.3390/ani9070431
2. Briones J., Leung A., Bautista N., Golin S., Caliwag N., Carlos M.A., Guevarra J., Miranda J., Guevarra J.K., Pili N.L., Mendoza D. De Jesus N. (2017): Utilization of Moringa oleifera Lam. in animal production. Acta Hortic. 1158; doi: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1158.54
3. Masih L.P., Singh S., Elamathi S., Anandhi P., Abraham T. (2019): Moringa: A multipurpose potential crop — A review. Proc Indian Natn Sci Acad 85(3): 589–601; doi: 10.16943/ptinsa/2019/49579
4. Nouman W., Basra S.M.A., Siddiqui M.T., Yasmeen A., Gull T., Alcayde M.A.C. (2014): Potential of Moringa oleifera L. as livestock fodder crop: a review. Turk J Agric For 38: 1–14; doi:10.3906/tar-1211–66
5. Eze D.C., Okwor E.C., Okoye J.O.A., Onah D.N. (2013):Immunologic effects of Moringa oleifera methanolic leaf extract in chickens infected with Newcastle disease virus (kudu 113) strain. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 7(31): 2231–2237; DOI 10.5897/AJPP2013.3471
6. Jacques A.S., Arnaud S.S.S., Fréjus O.O.H., Jacques D.T. (2020): Review on biological and immunomodulatory properties of Moringa oleifera in animal and human nutrition. Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy 12(1): 1–9; doi: 10.5897/JPP2019.0555
7. Yaqoob M., Aggarwal P., Kumar M., Purandare N. (2020) Isothiocyanates; sources, physiological functions and food applications. Plant Archives 20(2): 2758–2763; e-ISSN:2581–6063 (online)
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