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COMBITAN: sainfoin and sweet chestnut in sheep feed

The France Futur Elevage Carnot Institute has funded a project to test the efficacy of sainfoin granules enriched in condensed sweet chestnut tannins in order to control parasitic nematodes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in sheep and goats.

Brebis.. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe
Updated on 01/26/2018
Published on 10/30/2017

In an international context where resistance to anti-parasitic agents is developing among nematodes affecting the digestive tract, and where efforts to combat global warming are intensifying, it is necessary for actors in different livestock sectors to search for new nutritional solutions. Condensed tannins, which are secondary metabolites in numerous plants, display interesting properties that could respond to this dual challenge.

The COMBITAN project aims to develop new feeds – in granule form – that are rich in condensed tannins from sainfoin and by-products of the “nut” industry in its generic sense (sweet chestnuts, hazelnuts, etc.). These new feeds would help to control the development of internal parasites (nematodes) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in small ruminants by optimising ruminal fermentation. COMBITAN has brought together several public sector actors – two Joint Research Units in France, a British University and a Finnish University – and two privately owned companies.

The scientists will be exploring the condensed tannin content in firstly, dehydrated sainfoin granules obtained from the same cultivar but harvested at three different dates in the year, and secondly in the by-products of three different nut species (sweet chestnuts, walnuts and  hazelnuts). The Universities of Reading and Turku, global specialists in tannin analysis, are performing these quantifications and characterisations. The company MG2mix, linked with the Multifolia sector, is supplying the sainfoin granules, while INOVchâtaigne is supplying the sweet chestnut by-products.
The products containing the highest tannin levels are being combined in "optimised" granules obtained using technological processes that can ensure the optimum preservation of these active compounds. The know-how of the industrial partners is crucial to the production of these granules.
Scientists in the Joint Research Unit for Pathogen/Host Interactions (IHAP) are comparing the anthelmintic effects of normal or optimised sainfoin granules using in vitro tests or by studying animals infested experimentally with nematodes (a parasitic worm of the abomasum and an intestinal parasite). Scientists in the Herbivore Joint Research Unit (UMRH) are determining the nutritional value and impact on methane production of the optimised granules, normal granules and raw tannin extracts, using in vitro and in vivo fermentation systems in sheep.

This project has considerable potential for industrial innovations. As well as contributing to the valorisation of legumes in livestock feeds, COMBITAN may also enable:

  • The exploitation of certain agri-industrial by-products which were hitherto considered as waste;
  • The development of technologies to preserve and stabilise tannins and other bioactive compounds present in the different resources under study.

COMBITAN is also permitting exploration of the concept of functional feeds for ruminants that are rich in tannins and associate ant-parasitic, nutritional and environmental effects.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Hervé HOSTE (05 61 19 38 75) INRA-ENVT Joint Research Unit for Pathogen/Host Interactions (UMR 1225; IHAP), ENVT and INRA, ENV Toulouse 23 chemin des Capelles, 31076 TOULOUSE CEDEX
Associated Division(s):
Animal Health
Associated Centre(s):

The COMBITAN project in brief

Coordinator: Hervé Hoste, Research Director at INRA in Toulouse 
Project duration: 3 years (2017-2019)
Cost of the project: 114,8 K€
Partenaires :      

  • INRA-VetAgroSup Herbivore Joint Research Unit (UMR 1213; UMRH), 63122 Saint Genès Champanelle
  • INRA-ENVT Joint Research Unit for Pathogen/Host Interactions (UMR 1225; IHAP), ENVT et INRA, 31076 Toulouse
  • University of Reading (UK)
  • University of Turku (Finland)
  • MG2Mix, 35220 Chateaubourg,  
  • INOVchataigne, 24400 Saint Médard de Mussidan.

France Futur Élevage

The France Futur Élevage Carnot Institute can offer companies in the livestock sector its skills in R&D that mobilise three levers which are essential to multi-performing, sustainable and profitable livestock farming: health, diet and livestock systems, and animal genetics.
France Futur Élevage unites actors in agricultural and veterinary research with global reputations and expert know-how in R&D from three Agricultural Technical Institutes that are international leaders in services to the livestock industry.
Each year, this Carnot Institute provides funding to its member teams for several upstream research projects (“revitalisation projects”) whose aim is to generate results that can be transferred to industry.

Twitter : @Carnot_F2E
Contact : Fanny Wacquet, manager, fanny.wacquet@inra.fr ;Tél : +33(0)1 42 75 93 26 ;
Inra Transfert, 28 rue du Docteur Finaly, 75015 Paris

The France Futur Elevage network:

1 000 research scientists and engineers
120 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows
12 research laboratories
3 Agricultural Technical Institutes
2 experimental platforms

Key figures:

386 research contracts with 147 private sector actors
620 A-ranking publications
34 current patents