Rumen function vital for greater gains in beef and dairy herds

Published Thursday, 4th August 2016

In the latest video in our Extraordinary Science Brought to Life series, Dr Nicola Walker explores the challenges in feeding ruminants and the role of live yeast and fibre pre-treatment for boosting rumen function.

Dr Walker, Ruminant Product Development Manager at AB Vista, is advising producers to stabilise rumen pH and improve fibre digestion in order to see better milk yield and components and feed efficiency in dairy cows, and improve average daily gain and FCR in beef cattle.

“Feeding the ruminant is very challenging because there is a complex variety of available feed ingredients, and diet digestibility can fluctuate significantly depending on ration composition,” Dr Walker says.

“By optimising rumen function, we are trying to reduce the incidence of metabolic disorders such as sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA), when rumen pH drops below 5.8. This is because it impacts negatively on fibre digestion, because the activity and number of fibre-digesting bacteria are reduced.”

Adds Dr Walker, “When we consider feeding the ruminant, a key point to remember is that first of all we’re feeding the rumen microflora – essentially a very complex microbial eco-system; rumen pH can have a significant impact on the number and activity of these rumen microbes, and synchrony of supply of nutrients to these microbes is also vital.

“This means that diet digestibility is important, because plant cell wall material can only be digested in the rumen by up to 65%, and as more concentrates are added to the ration to provide energy, fibre digestion can drop to as low as 35%. This can also be negatively impacted by the variability and consistency in the mixing of the ration.”

It is vital to keep the rumen microflora in balance, says Dr Walker, therefore keeping rumen fermentation in balance.

“This can be achieved by synchronising nutrient supply to the rumen microbes themselves through effective ration formulation. We can also consider adding live yeast to the ration to stabilise pH and optimise rumen function, or reducing lag time to digestion through use of a fibre pre-treatment to improve fibre digestibility”

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