Quantitative effects of defaunation on rumen fermentation and digestion in sheep

J B Rowe, A Davies, A W Broome
British Journal of Nutrition 1985, 54 (1): 105-19
Studies on the quantitative significance of protozoa on carbon and nitrogen digestion and metabolism in the rumen were carried out in sheep given a diet of pelleted concentrate (500 g/d) and chopped hay (500 g/d). Measurements were made of apparent digestibility; flows of organic matter and dietary and microbial non-ammonia N (NAN) (using 15NH4+) to the duodenum; and rates of production, interconversion and metabolism of the major C fermentation end-products (from mathematical modelling of 14C isotope values). The population density of bacteria in the rumen increased as a result of defaunation (28.6 compared with 8.2 X 10(9) organisms/ml). This high density was associated with greater utilization of volatile fatty acids (VFA) within the rumen. The rate of irreversible loss (IL) of bicarbonate + carbon dioxide from the rumen was greater in the defaunated animals (98.5 v. 57.2 g C/d) but the IL from the blood was greater in the faunated group (138.6 v. 106.1 gC/d). This is consistent with the hypothesis that the high population density of bacteria found in the rumen fluid of defaunated animals may result in increased fermentation of rumen VFA and digestible dietary carbohydrate, thereby increasing the output of CO2 from the rumen and reducing the quantity of VFA (hence energy) available to the host. There was no difference in the flow of organic matter (OM) to the duodenum but there was a higher faecal excretion of OM in defaunated animals (apparent OM digestibility: 0.72 in faunated, 0.67 in defaunated). Defaunation did not significantly increase the flow of NAN to the duodenum, the percentage of duodenal NAN of bacterial origin or the quantity of microbial NAN synthesized/g organic matter fermented. Faecal excretion of NAN was higher in defaunated animals (5.3 v. 3.6 g N/d).

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