An experiment was conducted at Palmerston North, New Zealand, to determine the effect of condensed tannins (CT) on the true and apparent digestion of methionine and cysteine in the small intestine (SI) of sheep fed fresh Lotus comkulatus. The lotus contained c. 30 g total CT/kg dry matter (DM) and was fed hourly to sheep in metabolism crates. Four sheep were prepared with rumen and abomasal cannulae which enabled the indigestible liquid phase marker, chromium ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid (Cr-EDTA), to be infused into the rumen to estimate digesta flow. True digestibility of plant methionine and cysteine in the SI and their site of absorption in the SI were determined from 35S-labelled L. corniculatus homogenate continuously infused into the abomasum. After 9 h infusion of the 35S-labelled lotus homogenate, the sheep were slaughtered and digesta samples were taken at intervals along the small and large intestines. The effect of CT was determined by comparing two control sheep (CT-acting) with two sheep given a continuous intraruminal infusion of polyethylene glycol (PEG, MW 3500) to bind and inactivate the CT.
The CT reduced the true digestibility of plant methionine (0·72 v. 0·88) and cysteine (0·65 v. 0·81) in the SI relative to sheep receiving PEG. Condensed tannins also appeared to alter the site of digestion of both [35S]methionine and [35S]cysteine in the SI, and increased the flux of both amino acids in the mid and latter thirds of the SI. CT did not affect the apparent digestibility of total methionine (0·82 v. 0·84) in the SI but reduced the apparent digestibility of total cysteine from 0·77 to 0·66. In control sheep CT increased the abomasal flux (as a proportion of eaten) of total digesta methionine (0·88 v. 0·76) and total digesta cysteine (0·74 v. 0·62). The apparent absorption of total methionine (plant + microbial + endogenous) was increased by the action of CT (0·72 v. 0·63 g/g eaten) but was similar for total cysteine (0·49 v. 0·48 g/g eaten) in both groups. It was concluded that CT reduced the true digestibility of plant methionine and cysteine in the SI. However, it was calculated that the action of CT actually increased the total amounts (g/g eaten) of plant methionine and cysteine absorbed from the SI, due to its effect in increasing abomasal flux.