Plants are the oldest friends of mankind. They do not only provide food and shelter but also serve humanity by preventing and curing different ailments both in man and animals. Herbs and spices have always been helpful to cure diseases (Charis, 2000). In modern animal feeding, they are forgotten because of antimicrobial growth promoters (AGP), But due to the prohibition of most of AGP, plant extract have gained interest in animal feeding strategies (Charis, 2000). 

The risks of the presence of antibiotics in some of these plants have residues in the milk and meat and their harmful effects on human health have led to their prohibition for use in animal feed (cardozo et al; 2004). Many plants also produce secondary metabolites such as phenolic compound, essential oils and sarasaponins (chesson et al; 1982; Wallace et al; 1994; Kamel, 2001)
            Herbs normally used are picorhiza, garlic, cloves, slippery elm, neem fruits,, leaves and bark, sophora flaverscens, nutmeg, ginger, thyme etc. These plants are used as digestive stimulants, antiseptic, antiparasite, anti-inflammatory, appetite stimulant. In human and animals (Kar et al; 2004). Researches studies indicated that many extracts have antimicrobial activity. According to Almas (1999), the extract of Azadirachta indica (neem plant) are effective against aflatoxin and promote growth in Animals.

NEEM (Azadirachta indica)
            The neem is a tropical evergreen tree, a native of Indian sub-continent (Roxbury, 1874). It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 4000 years due to its medicinal properties. Most of the plant’s parts such as fruits, seeds, leaves, bark and roots contain compound with proven antiseptic, antiviral, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and autiulcer uses (Aftab and sial 1999). It has great potentials in the field of pest management, environmental protection, animal nutrition and medicine. Neem is a natural source of eco-friendly insecticide, pesticides, fungicides, agrochemicals and growth promoters (Brahmachari, 2004). Neem is considered to be a part of India’s genetic diversity (sateesh, 1998). It is the most research tree in the world and is said to be the most promising tree of 21st century. The tree has adaptability to a wide range of climatic, topographic and edaphic factors. It thrives well in dry, stony shallow soils and even on soils having hard clay pan, at a shallow depth. Neem tree requires little water and plenty of sunlight (sateesh, 1998). The tree grows naturally in areas where the rainfall is in the range of 450 to 1200mm. However, it has been introduced successfully even in areas where the rainfall is as how as 150 to 250mm. Neem grows on altitudes up to 1500mm (Jattan et al; 1995; chari, 1996).

            Two species of Azadrachta indica have been reported, Azadrachia. Indica A. Juss native to Indian sub-continent and Azadracta excelsa Kack, confined to Philippines and Indonesia (Jattan et al; 1995; Hedge, 1995). The former grow as a wide tree in India, Bangladesh, Burma, Pakistan. Presently, Neem tree can be seen growing successfully in about 72 countries worldwide. In Asia, Africa, Australia North, central and south America (Ahmed et al; 1989; Sidhu, 1995; sateesh, 1998;  Fathima, 2004).
            There are an estimated 25 million trees growing all over India (Rembold, 1996) of which 5.5% are fund in Karnataka and it is in the third place next to utter Pradesh (55.7%) and Thailand (17.8%) occupying the first two places respectively. India stands first in neem seed production and about 442,300 tons of seeds are produced annually yielding 88,400 tons of neem oil and 353,800 tons of neem cake (Sindhuveerenda, 1995, Chakraborthy and Konger, 1995; Bahguna, 1997; Fathima, 2004).

            Neem is a member of the mahogany family. It has similar properties to it’s close relative, Melia azederach. The word Azadirachta is derived from the Persian azaddhirakt (meaning ‘noble tree’). The taxonomic positions of neem are as follows:
Kingdom      Plantae
Order        --      Rutales
Sub-order --       Rutinuae
Family            --         Meliaceae
Sub-family --            Melioideae
 Tribe              --         Melieae
Genus --         Azadirachta
Specie            --         Indica
Latin: Azadirachta Indica
Indian: Holy tree, India lilac tree
Hindi: Neem Nim
Sanskrit: Nimba
Hausa: Dogon yaro
Igbo: Ogwu akuma
Ahmed et al., 1989

            Biologically active principles isolated from different parts of the plant includes: azadiractin, maliacin, gedunin, salanin, nimbin valassin and many other derivatives of these principles. Meliacin forms the bitter principles of neem seed oil; the seed also contain tignic acid (5-methyl – 2 – butanic acid) responsible for the distincitive odour of the oil (schmutterer, 1990; Uko and kamulu, 2001; lale, 2002). These compounds belong to natural products called triterpenoids (limonoids). The active principles are slightly hydrophilic but freely lipophilic and highly soluble in organic solvent like hydrocarbon, alcohol and esters (Schmutterer and singh, 1995).

            Major chemical constituents of neem are Terpenes and limonoids. The major active components in the limonoids are azadirachtin, 3-deacetyle – 3 – annanoyl azadirachtin, 1 – tigloyl – 3 – acetyle II – methoxyazadirachtin, 22, 23 – dihydro – 23 – methoxyazadiraction, nimbanal, 3 – tigloylazadirachtol, 3 – acetyl – salanno V, nimbido V, margocin, margocinin, margocilin and others (Ogbuewu, 2008). Terpenoids are Isoazadirolide, 6 nimbocinolide, nimbonone, methylgrevillate and margosinone. Neem increases the production of Glutathione – s – transfarese, thus improving the ability of the liver to detoxify itself of chemical contamination.

ANTIMICROBIAL ACTIVITY: Several active principle from neem have demonstrated high efficacy against most pathogens. As fungicides over 14 common fungi species are sensitive to neem preparation (khan and Wassilew, 1987). They include the general Epidermoplyton (ringworm of skin and nails), microsporum (ringworm of skin and hair). Sairam et al; (1997) reported that in Aspergillus flavus, neem leaf extract fail to inhibit growth but reduces formation of afflatoxin by blocking polyketides production which is commonly converted to toxins. As antibiotics, pathagenic bactera like salmonella typhin are significantly suppressed by neem seed oil (NSO). Trials with neem extract have significantly suppressed E. Coli and K. Pneumonea (Ram et al; 2002). As antiviral agents, experiment with small pox, chicken pox, fowl pox viruses show biological efficacy of neem extracts. Crude neem extracts adsorbed the viruses by blocking entry into uninfected cells (Rao et al; 1989). Neem seed oil showed bactericidal activity against 14 strains of pathogenic bacteria (Basna et al; 2001). Neem leaf extracts are also antimutagenic

            Neem has strong insecticidal activity. The Meliaceae, especially Azadirachta Indica (Indian neem tree) contains at least 35 biological active principles (Mulla, 1999). Azadirachtin is the predominant insecticidal active ingredient in the seed, leaves and other parts of the neem tree. Azadirachtin and other compounds in neem product exhibit various mode of action against insects such as antifeedarncy, growth regulation, fecundity suppression and sterilization, oviposition repellancy or attractancy, changes in biological fitness and blocking fitness and also blocking development of vector borne pathogens. Neem works as a repellant by disrupting the appetite of insects and diminishing their urge to reproduce. Unlike most chemical pesticides that contain poisonous groups of nitrogen, chlorine, phosphorus and sulphur in their molecules and are potentially hazardous, neem has been found to have little or no mammalian toxicity. Furthermore, in all scientific trials conducted to date, neem deters insects as effectively and economically as DDT and other synthetic pesticides.

            Tipu et al; (2002) compared the anticocccdial efficacy of neem fruit and salinomycin sodium in broilers. They concluded that the addition of 0.3% ground neem fruit in broilers feed has tremendous efficiency in combating coccidiosis as compared to other. They reported that neem fruit contains margosate which is responsible to the breakdown of Eimeria life cycle.

 Oocyst count/gram of fences and mortality in broilers treated with different preparation
Infected + kokcisan
2. 63
Infected + neem (0.01%)
Infected + neem (0.02%
Infected + neem (0.03%)
Infected + non medicated control
    Source Tipu et al; (2002)

            The high cost of conventional feedstuff for animal feeding has made number of researchers in recent times to investigate the proximate composition of neem seed cake NSC (Baroa et al; 2006; Uko and Kamalu, 2001) and leaf meal (oforjindu, 2006; Esonu et al; 2005; 2006 ; Ogbuewu et al; 2010) and its uses as feedstuff in poultry.
            Neem cake has also been used very widely as animal feed (Bawa et al; 2006; Uko and Kamula, 2007). Despite the bitter components, livestock diets containing varied percentage of neem cake.Result of proximate analysis of neem showed that neem leaf meal have 92.42% dry matter, 7.58% moisture, 20.68% crude protein, 16.6% crude fibre, 4.13% ether extract, 7.10% ash and 43.91% nitrogen free extract (Esonu et al; 2005; Oforjindu, 2006; Ogbuewu, 2008). Alkali treatment of neem cake with caustic soda yields palatable product by removing the toxicant triterpenoid (Devakumar and Dev, 1993). Neem oil which is rich in long chain fatty acid is used in poultry feed. De-oiled neem seed cake has essential amino acids, crude proteins, fibre contents, sulphur and nitrogen (Uko and Kamalu, 2007).

            Bawa et al; (1999) fed calves on green fresh neem leaves (0, 5 or 10gm daily) for 12 weeks. Significant differences in growth rate were observed between the treated and control groups. Daily rate of growth was 0.268, 0.346 and 0.400kg for groups treated with 0, 5,and 10grams neem leaves daily. While daily dry matter intake was 2.09, 2.14 and 2.21kg respectively. Inclusion of neem leaves powder resulted in an increase in total feed intake by 5.7%.

Owing to its versatile characteristics, neem (Azadirachta indica) is rightly called the village pharmacy. National Research council, Washington, USA considers the neem one of the most promising of all plant and the facts is that it may eventually benefit every person on this planet. Neem has been effectively used as a protential natural growth promoter and as immune stimulant contributing to better body weight gain, FCR, gross return and lower mortality. In line with these adequate benefits, researches on neem must be directed at identification and quantification of the active principles thereby making these findings readily accessible to mankind for adoption.      

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