Pflanzenkohle in der Tierfütterung

The cur­rent­ly most promis­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty to use biochar in agri­cul­ture in an eco­nom­i­cal­ly and eco­log­i­cal­ly ben­e­fi­cial way is by cascade use in animal hus­bandry. This is the con­clu­sion reached by the authors Schmidt, Kammann and Gerlach in their book con­tri­bu­tion for one of the sci­en­tif­ic stan­dard works on biochar (pub­lished by Quicker & Weber 2016, Biokohle, Springer Verlag). Biochar can be used as silage addi­tive, animal feed, in litter, for manure treat­ment and as compost addi­tive. The article not only gives a good overview of the dif­fer­ent appli­ca­tions of biochar in animal hus­bandry, it also com­pre­hen­sive­ly sum­ma­rizes the most impor­tant research results of recent years.

Effect of biochar in animal feeding

Before biochar was inves­ti­gat­ed and used as animal feed in the early 2000s, acti­vat­ed biochar was used as a vet­eri­nary med­i­cine for diges­tive dis­or­ders and poi­son­ing. Adsorp­tion therapy (binding and accu­mu­la­tion of sub­stances in the pores and on the surface of the biochar), in which biochar is used as a non-digestible carrier agent, is con­sid­ered one of the most impor­tant methods to prevent harmful or lethal effects of orally absorbed toxins.
Another deci­sive func­tion of biochar is its electro-bio­chem­i­cal inter­ac­tion in bio­log­i­cal­ly active systems. Biochar that was pro­duced at tem­per­a­tures of more than 550 °C is not only a good elec­tri­cal con­duc­tor, but can also absorb and emit elec­trons in chem­i­cal and micro­bial redox reac­tions as elec­tron medi­a­tors. It does not do this con­tin­u­ous­ly, but its con­duc­tiv­i­ty is based on dis­con­tin­u­ous elec­tron hopping. This elec­tron hopping is indis­pens­able for the micro­bial degra­da­tion of food in the diges­tive tract.

Effect of biochar on animal feed

Despite the many and varied prop­er­ties of biochar, there are a number of central effects that have been observed during use in feed

  • Increase in feed intake & increase in feed efficiency
  • Increase in weight
  • Strength­en­ing of the immune system
  • Improved meat quality
  • Improved stable hygiene and reduced odour pollution
  • Reduc­tion of dis­eases and vet­eri­nary costs

Tests with cattle: The general state of health and vital­i­ty improved. The cell count of milk decreased sig­nif­i­cant­ly, milk protein and milk fat content increased. Hoof prob­lems improved, diar­rhoea symp­toms decreased and faeces became firmer. The fer­til­is­ing effect of the cattle manure increases.
Exper­i­ments with fat­ten­ing pigs: The feed effi­cien­cy and thus the weight gain improved by almost 20%. The cor­ti­sol content was sig­nif­i­cant­ly lower, which indi­cates a lower sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to stress. In addi­tion, feeding with biochar result­ed in the same growth increase as the stan­dard amount of antibi­otics used.
Exper­i­ments with poultry:Studies have shown that biochar can improve weight, feed effi­cien­cy and meat quality. Mor­tal­i­ty decreased. There has also been an increase in egg pro­duc­tion in poultry.

Require­ments for biochar as feeding char

The binding and storage poten­tial of plant coal depends in par­tic­u­lar on the spe­cif­ic surface area and pore size dis­tri­b­u­tion. Accord­ing to the authors, acti­va­tion of the biochar is gen­er­al­ly not nec­es­sary, as the micro­p­ores pro­duced are too small to absorb the sub­stances rel­e­vant for animal diges­tion. The use of biochar in animal feed is reg­u­lat­ed by the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ty Reg­u­la­tion (EC No 68/2013) and its quality require­ments are laid down in EC No 178/2002. The Euro­pean Biochar Cer­tifi­cate (EBC), a vol­un­tary indus­try stan­dard, guar­an­tees com­pli­ance with all limit values pre­scribed by the EC reg­u­la­tion and also cer­ti­fies sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion and use as well as other cri­te­ria rel­e­vant to biochar.

Orig­i­nal article (German): Der Einsatz von Pflanzenkohle in der Tier­füt­terung (The use of biochar in animal feed)

Author: Hans-Peter Schmidt, Claudia Kammann, Achim Gerlach, Henning Gerlach

Pub­lished in: Peter Quicker et. al (Hrsg.): Biokohle. Springer Verlag 2016 / Ithaka-Journal 2016, pp. 364–394