Research-Article| Volume 69, ISSUE 10, P2755-2766, October 1986

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Chemical Factors Involved in Ruminal Fiber Digestion1

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      In the United States, cattle are commonly fed diets containing cereal grains. The presence of starch and sugars reduces fiber digestion, which may in turn depress intake.
      In this paper, chemical constraints that may be responsible for the decrease in fiber digestion are explored. A major factor appears to be rumen pH. Moderate depression in pH, to approximately 6.0, results in a small decrease in fiber digestion, but numbers of fibrolytic organisms are usually not affected. Further decreases to 5.5 or 5.0 result in depressed growth rates and decreased fibrolytic microbes, and fiber digestion may be completely inhibited.
      Proliferation of organisms on readily fermentable carbohydrates may increase the need for total nitrogen as both ammonia and amino acids. The value of amino acids to cellulolytic organisms appears to be primarily as sources of isobutyric, isovaleric, and 2-methylbutyric acids. This reinforces the need to establish dietary requirements for nonprotein nitrogen, degradable protein, and isoacids.
      Other factors affecting fiber digestion, such as inhibition of cellulytic enzymes and plant concentrations of lignins and phenyl propanoids, are also discussed.


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