The effect of including 14 g urea with either 75 g dry matter (DM) from sugar cane molasses (UM) or Colombian rice polishings (RP) at three levels, 68 (RP1), 137 (RP2) or 203 (RP3) g DM on grass hay DM intake and on rumen fermentation was investigated. An incomplete Latin-square design was used and each experimental period was divided into 12 days for adaptation to each diet followed by 9 days in metabolism cages when all measurements were made using five adult sheep.
Pooled mean values for rumen metabolites (five samples per day) were calculated. Rumen pH was not affected by the nature of the supplements. Concentrations of volatile fatty acids (VFA) (UM 92·8, RP1 84·2, RP2 86·4, and RP3 84·0 (s.e.d. 3·4) mmol/l) and lactate (UM 2·0, RP1 1/6, RP2 1/7, RP3 1/8 (s.e.d. 0·014) mmol/l) (UM v. RP, P < 0·05 and P < 0·10 respectively) were lower when RP were given, while concentration of branched and longer chain VFA (26·5, 34·0, 31·1 and 33·5 (s.e.d. 1·6) mmol/mol total VFA, UM v. RP, P < 0·01) and ammonia (98, 131, 141, 137 (s.e.d. 16·1) mg/l, UM v. RP, P < 0·05) were increased. Numbers of rumen protozoa (1·6, 3·2, 2·7, 3·3 (s.e.d. 0·75) × 105 per ml, UM v. RP, P < 0·20) tended to be higher 2 h after feeding when RP rather than UM were given. However, hay DM intake (1050, 960, 960, 880 (s.e.d. 45·3) g/day, UM v. RP, P < 0·05), and microbial protein supply (11·7, 9·3,11·1,10·8 (s.e.d. 0·59) g N per day, UM v. RP, P < 0·05), estimated from urinary purine excretion were reduced by feeding RP instead of UM.
At the levels of inclusion tested RP did not increase the efficiency of rumen fermentation and were not as effective a supplement with urea as was molasses for a low-quality forage diet.