Did you know that if you improve air quality, pig performance can increase as well?

Anne Oberdorf

4 minutes | 8. October 2018
Degree of technical knowledge

Reduce ammonia emissions in pig production with phytogenics

For example, in 2016 around 67,600 tons of ammonia were emitted in Austria alone. However, the maximum permitted amount of ammonia emissions of this small country is 66,000 tonnes. 94 percent of ammonia emissions came from agriculture. In the barn, aerial ammonia affects health and performance of livestock, via slurry it enters the environment and endangers ecosystems. You see, it’s time for a change.

reduce ammonia emissions of pigs with phytogenics© Delacon

In animals, the bacterial enzyme urease is the main actor in ammonia formation. It is located in the intestine with the highest activity in cecum and colon as well as in animals’ feces. Here it functions as a transformer of urea in ammonia which is released in the environment. In addition to impairing the welfare of the animal, the released ammonia inevitably leads to inferior performance, inefficient feed conversion and burdens the immune system. At high concentrations, aerial ammonia causes irritation of the mucosal membrane of the respiratory tract, which in turn increases the animals’ susceptibility to bacterial infections. The animal becomes more susceptible for respiratory diseases like rhinitis or pneumonia, which increases veterinary costs and diminishes performance.

Fact box

As shown in a trial of the HBLFA Gumpenstein (Austria), ammonia concentrations over 40 ppm may result in …

  • a prolonged fattening period by up to 6 days,
  • reduced daily weight gain by max 7 % and in addition,
  • feed conversion ratio worsens by max 9 %.

Not a good basis for truly successful animal husbandry.

Aerial NH3 content











Smallest amount detectable olfactory

Start of corrosion of mucosa in eyes and respiratory tract

Animal performance decreases

Exposure threshold limit value for workers (for 8h exposure) (NIOSH)

Max. level for 10 min exposure

Headache, nausea, vomitus, general weakness and lethargy

Dangerous health effects, pneumonia

Constant cough, salivation, permanent damage of mucosa in animals and staff

How can the farmer improve the air quality in the barn and thus increase the performance?

One solution is the use of saponins in feed: those plant derived substances have the ability to bind ammonia directly and inhibit enzymes involved in urea degradationIn vivo trials show that the use of phytogenic products with additional saponins reduce ammonia emissions up to 26 % throughout the pig’s life cycle. Thus, a lesser amount of ammonia is released in barn air of which both, farmers and pigs, will profit. A reduction of aerial ammonia concentrations in pigsties increases the profitability of pig fattening: Disease-related outages and performance depressions of the animals decrease, while daily gains and feed conversion stay on a high level. Moreover, the reduction of ammonia emissions makes a valuable contribution to greenhouse gas reduction. This is very important for agriculture, as it helps to meet the legal requirements for reducing emissions.

By taking advantage of the synergistic effects of various groups of active ingredients such as essential oils, herbs, spices, mucilages, flavonoids and saponins, Delacon is one step ahead:

The highly efficient and unique composition of phytogenic additives is adjusted to the life phase of the animal and does not only improve the health of the animal. It also benefits the environment and enhances the working condition and profit for the farmer.


Reduce ammonia emissions with phytogenics©Delacon

Did you know?

Ammonia does not only affect the environment, it also has a negative impact on livestock:

• High aerial ammonia concentrations favor tail biting

• Ammonia in the pig’s gut, which results from excessive protein feeding, must be detoxified via the liver. Huge amounts of ammonia lead to liver stress and higher energy consumption

Aerial ammonia irritates the nose, throat and respiratory tract; high concentrations cause epithelial damage to the mucous membranes and reduce the self-cleaning capacity of the lungs

• Increased aerial ammonia concentrations delay the sexual maturity; for example, it reduces the ability of sows to perceive olfactory cues from the boars


Combining management strategies, phase-specific protein feeding and dietary addition of PFAs containing saponins are effective approaches to reduce ammonia emissions in barns.

References available upon request

What are you doing to reduce ammonia emissions in pig barns? Leave your footprint in the comment section.