Boosting drinking water with fermented fatty acid salt blends

Animals on average consume twice as much water as feed, indicating that clean drinking water is essential for high welfare and productivity of livestock. Current drinking water systems can provide efficient and continuous dosing, thereby making it easy to provide precise nutritional support to your herd or flock with the use of water soluble additives, such as fatty acid salts derived via fermentation.

Jeroen van Dorp
Business Development Manager

Most farmers nowadays are aware of the value in adding small amounts of organic acids to the feed or drinking water to support the intestinal health of their livestock. Scientists have analyzed the preservative, gut health and antimicrobial benefits of these additives extensively. Nutritionists are keen at promoting all these functionalities and thereby generalize the effects in order to simplify the complex landscape of different acids and application forms.

Though this simplification helps to thoroughly understand the modes of action, it unfortunately also results in overlooking the unique value of each individual acid as well as the synergies observed when combining various acids. It thereby fails to emphasize the value of using an acid- or salt blend to maximize the desired welfare and productivity effects. In this article therefore two unique fatty acids with completely distinct added value are highlighted: Caproic (C6) and Butyric (C4). We subsequently present the benefits of supplementing livestock drinking water with a blend containing both these fatty acids in their sodium salt form in high concentration. Ultimately, we share a novel method for sourcing this blend of fatty acid salts, resulting in substantial sustainability benefits over current standards.

Caproic acid (C6) usage in agriculture is relatively rare because of traditional high pricing and limited availability (a mere 0.3% in palm kernel- and coconut oil). However, it is an excellent antimicrobial agent and can furthermore support gut health of various livestock types. Caproic has proven to be exceptionally effective against Salmonellae, E. coli, and various other pathogens, in particular gram-negative bacteria. Antimicrobial effects that are unique for this molecule. {ChainCraft; Hismiogullari, 2008; Van Immerseel, 2004}.

In addition, the medium chain fatty acids (C6-C12) have proven to be effective as antiviral agents as well, by causing leakage or total disintegration of the viral envelope {Dee, 2020; Cochrane, 2016}.

In contrast to Caproic, Butyric acid (C4) is one of the most widely used and well-known additives within current livestock farming. It is a main energy source for the enterocytes lining the intestinal tract, resulting in an improvement of tight junction formation, villus/crypt ratio, and exerting anti-inflammatory effects. Butyric acid has boosted the efficiency at numerous farms for many years {Bedford, 2018}.

Now that the strength of these two fatty acids on their own terms of boosting gut health and antimicrobial defense in livestock are clear, it is also clear why to combine them. Using a blend of these acids will boost both gut health and antimicrobial support.

In addition to this straight-forward sum of effects, these fatty acids appear to combat pathogens ‘cooperatively’. This synergism is thought to result from the fact that fatty acids of longer chain length (e.g. Caproic) damage the bacterial cell walls, after which shorter fatty acids (e.g. Butyric) can penetrate and disrupt the inner cell {Peh, 2020; Kim, 2013}.

Fatty acids can be incorporated in the diet of animals in various forms (acid form, fat coated form, glyceride form and salt form) and via two main routes (feed or drinking water). Making use of sodium salts ensures the acids are buffered and thereby do not dissociate prior to reaching the animals intestinal tract. Furthermore, the salt forms are less corrosive, have less odor and ensure easier handling. In addition, the water solubility of sodium salts of these acids is very high. This makes the sodium salt form an attractive option for drinking water applications.

A blend of the sodium salts of Caproic acid and Butyric acid has been tested for health and productivity improvement of monogastrics. The tests conducted at Schothorst Feed Research proved the value of adding this blend to the diet of young broilers. Although the animals were kept under optimal conditions, and not challenged, the Caproic and Butyric sodium salts blend still provided additional body weight gain (BWG) of up to 3.7% and up to 2.4% feed conversion ratio (FCR) improvement compared to the control feed, see graph 1.

This exact sodium salt blend of Caproic and Butyric has been developed by fermentation of plant-based food residues. This method of re-using by-products is called upcycling, as it creates valuable ingredients from side streams that would otherwise be discarded at lower or even negative value. An efficient and natural method for upcycling food residues is fermentation. Fermentation of food has been around for ages and has seen an uplift in popularity over the last few years. The recent growth in popularity among consumers stems from the sustainable image (fermentation provides preservation of the produce) as well as the associated health effects (fermented foods support the gut microbiome, nutrient availability and the immune system) {BBC Good Food}. Similar benefits exist for fermentation of food residues to produce fatty acid salt blends for livestock: it is a sustainable solution and will support health of the livestock.

The proprietary process developed by ChainCraft for using food residues to obtain a blend of Caproic and Butyric sodium salts is based upon natural (non-GMO) fermentation process. This unique method yields a high concentration of these beneficial fatty acid sodium salts: Caproate (60%) and Butyrate (25%). The remaining 15% of the blend constituting of straight-chain, saturated fatty acid salts in the range of C2-C8 and thereby contributing to additional antimicrobial strength.

This blend of fatty acid salts is soluble for up to a saturation of 55% in water and will remain stable and liquid in between temperatures ranging from -15° and +40° Celsius. It is offered as a 50% solution in water, with a density of 1,120 g/L.


Caproic acid has traditionally been difficult to purchase because of fluctuating availability and price level. This unsustainable supply results from the fact that the only industrial source for this acid is palm kernel- or coconut oil, which both contain only 0.3% of this fatty acid. As the ChainCraft upcycling process yields a high level of Caproate (60%) this unique fatty acid salt can now be sourced effectively and at substantially lower cost and stable supply.

Butyric acid additives are traditionally derived from petroleum oil and also involve substantial volatility in price and availability, as demonstrated by the impact of the Texas weather and the COVID and Suez-channel related logistic problems on current price levels of this fatty acid.

Besides this extreme volatility in pricing and availability, neither petroleum-, palm kernel- nor coconut oil is a sustainable feedstock for fatty acid production. Those fatty acids derived from petroleum oil require high energy consumption and carbon emissions for production of petroleum and the subsequent processing into fatty acids. The fatty acids derived from palm kernel- or coconut oil require high carbon emissions for production and their use corresponds to deforestation of valuable rainforest areas.

The Caproic and Butyric sodium salts blend produced by ChainCraft with the upcycling of food residues by aid of fermentation has a 70% lower carbon footprint and decreases energy use for production by 50% compared to these current processes. Moreover, the product helps to reduce the major environmental burdens of waste landfilling and -burning and supports a vision of fully circular agriculture.

The ChainCraft upcycling process is based on a proprietary fermentation technology developed at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Supplementing drinking water with fatty acid salts is an attractive option for boosting welfare and productivity of livestock. The salts are highly water soluble and by making use of carefully designed blends both gut health and antimicrobial support can be provided in a single step. The ChainCraft proprietary fermentation process for upcycling food residues has proven to yield a blend of Caproic and Butyric sodium salts proficient in boosting productivity of monogastrics. Innovating your drinking water system by implementing this fatty acid salt blend not only offers great benefits to your herd or flock’ health and farm economics, it also helps making the world a better place.

About Jeroen van Dorp
Jeroen van Dorp is Business Development Manager at ChainCraft and is expanding the use of novel, sustainable fatty acid based products in a variety of applications within the space of agriculture, food and materials. He holds an MSc with honors in Organic Chemistry and his main focus area is in biobased chemicals, specifically fermentation derived organic acids. Jeroen develops this passion also outside of office hours, as he is an avid micro-brewer and also enjoys other types of home fermentation.