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Comparison of microbial fermentation of high- and low-forage diets in Rusitec, single-flow continuous-culture fermenters and sheep rumen

  • M. D. Carro (a1), M. J. Ranilla (a1), A. I. Martín-García (a2) and E. Molina-Alcaide (a2)


Eight Rusitec and eight single-flow continuous-culture fermenters (SFCCF) were used to compare the ruminal fermentation of two diets composed of alfalfa hay and concentrate in proportions of 80 : 20 (F80) and 20 : 80 (F20). Results were validated with those obtained previously in sheep fed the same diets. Rusitec fermenters were fed once daily and SFCCF twice, but liquid dilution rates were similar in both types of fermenters. Mean values of pH over the 12 h postfeeding were higher (P < 0.001) in Rusitec than in SFCCF, with diet F80 showing higher values (P < 0.001) in both types of fermenters. Concentrations of total volatile fatty acids (VFA) were higher (P < 0.001) in SFCCF than in Rusitec, and in both systems were higher (P = 0.002) for diet F20 than for diet F80. There were significant differences between systems in the proportions of the main VFA, and a fermentation system × diet interaction (P < 0.001) was detected for all VFA with the exception of valerate. No differences (P = 0.145) between the two types of fermenters were detected in dry matter (DM) digestibility, but NDF, microbial N flow and its efficiency were higher (P = 0.001) in SFCCF compared to Rusitec. Whereas pH values and VFA concentrations remained fairly stable through the day in both in vitro systems, pH dropped and VFA increased shortly after feeding in sheep rumen reaching the minimum and maximal values, respectively, about 4 h after feeding. Both in vitro systems detected differences between diets similar to those found in sheep for liquid dilution rate, pH values, DM digestibility, microbial N flow and growth efficiency. In contrast, acetate/propionate ratios were lower for diet F20 than for F80 in sheep rumen (2.73 and 3.97) and SFCCF (3.07 and 4.80), but were higher for diet F20 compared to F80 (4.29 and 3.40) in Rusitec, with values considered to be unphysiological for high-concentrate diets. In vivo NDF digestibility was affected (P = 0.017) by diet, but no differences between diets (P > 0.05) were found in any in vitro system. A more precise control of pH in both types of fermenters and a reduction of concentrate retention time in Rusitec could probably improve the simulation of in vivo fermentation.


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