1. Three experiments were conducted to examine the effect of monensin on growth performance, feed utilization and volatile fatty acids (VFA) in the forestomach and caecum of hamsters.
2. In Expt 1, monensin was fed at levels of 0, 5, 10 and 20 mg/kg to the growing male and female hamsters given a commercial diet (major component: lucerne (Medicago sativa) meal). In Expt 2, monensin was fed at levels of 0, 5, 15, 45 and 135 mg/kg to the growing male hamsters given a semi-purified diet containing 10 g urea/kg (main components: maize starch, sucrose, casein and cellulose). In Expt 3, monensin was fed at levels of 0 and 40 mg/kg to the growing male hamsters given the commercial diet containing lucerne meal or a semi-purified diet.
3. In Expt 1, monensin improved feed conversion efficiency and growth performances in the young growing hamsters, but monensin did not affect the hamsters at a later growing stage.
4. In response to monensin the proportion of acetic acid increased and that of propionic acid decreased in the forestomach, whereas the proportion of acetic acid decreased and that of propionic acid increased in the caecum in Expt 2. The hamsters given 135 mg monensin/kg ate less, developed diarrhoea and died.
5. The apparent digestibility of crude protein (nitrogen x 6.25) was improved by monensin but those of dry matter and neutral-detergent fibre (NDF) were decreased in hamsters given the semi-purified diet in Expt 3. Monensin did not appear to have a significant effect on the apparent digestibility of the diet containing lucerne meal.
6. The responses to monensin in hamsters are compared with those in ruminants.