In the last few years there has been an increasing concern regarding the use of antibiotics in ruminant feeding and the potential for selection of antibiotic-resistant pathogen micro-organisms. Some authors (Martin and Streeter, 1995; Callaway and Martin, 1996) suggested that organic acids (aspartate, fumarate, malate) potentially provide an alternative to currently used antimicrobial compounds. Several in vitro studies (Martin and Streeter, 1995; Callaway and Martin, 1996) showed that incorporation of DL-malate into fermentations with both Selenomonas ruminantium HD4 and with mixed ruminal micro-organisms resulted in changes in final pH, methane and volatile fatty acids (VFA) that are analogous to ionophore effects. Nisbet and Martin (1993) hypothesized that malate acted as an electron sink for hydrogen. However, the mechanism of action is not well known. Malate is a key intermediate in the succinate-propionate pathway and therefore could stimulate propionate production. The objective of this study was to study the effects of DL-malate and propionate on the in vitro rumen fermentation of a 50:50 foragexoncentrate diet.
The study was carried out using the rumen simulation technique (RUSITEC) following the general incubation procedure described by Czerkawski and Breckenridge (1977). The complete unit consisted of eight vessels with an effective volume of 700 ml each. The vessels inocula (solid and liquid) were obtained from three ruminally fistulated ewes given a diet consisting of 700 g alfalfa hay and 300 g concentrate per kg dry matter (DM) (Table 1) and transferred to the RUSITEC system within 30 min of the 1st day of the experiment. The flow through the vessels was maintained by continuous infusion of artificial saliva at a rate of 533 ml/day. Each vessel received daily a nylon bag containing 7 g alfalfa hay, 7 g concentrate and 0·10 g vitaminsminerals mix. From the 1st day of incubation three vessels received daily 5·62 mmol DL-malate (disodium salt; Sigma-Aldrich Quimica, S.A., Spain), three vessels received 5·62 mmol of propionate (monosodium salt; Sigma-Aldrich Quimica, S.A., Spain) and two vessels received no addition (control). DL-malate and propionate were weighed into the nylon bags and carefully mixed with the food.