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Journal of Animal Science Abstract - Animal Nutrition

Rumen morphometrics and the effect of digesta pH and volume on volatile fatty acid absorption1


This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 91 No. 4, p. 1775-1783
    Received: Dec 06, 2011
    Accepted: Jan 02, 2013
    Published: December 2, 2014

    2 Corresponding author(s):

  1. L. Q. Melo*,
  2. S. F. Costa,
  3. F. Lopes,
  4. M. C. Guerreiro,
  5. L. E. Armentano and
  6. M. N. Pereira 2
  1. Vaccinar Indústria e Comércio Ltda, Belo Horizonte 31270-010, Brazil, 31270-010
    Universidade Federal de Lavras, Lavras 37200-000, Brazil 37200-000
    University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706


The effects of rumen digesta volume and pH on VFA absorption and its relation to rumen wall morphology were evaluated. Nine rumen cannulated cows formed 3 groups based on desired variation in rumen morphology: The High group was formed by Holsteins yielding 25.9 kg milk/d and fed on a high-grain total mixed ration (TMR); the Medium group by Holstein-Zebu crossbreds yielding 12.3 kg milk/d and fed on corn silage, tropical pasture, and a commercial concentrate; and the Dry group by nonlactating grazing Jerseys fed exclusively on tropical pasture. Within each group, a sequence of 3 ruminal conditions was induced on each cow in 3 × 3 Latin Squares, with 7-d periods: high digesta volume and high pH (HVHP), low volume and high pH (LVHP), and low volume and low pH (LVLP). Rumen mucosa was biopsied on the first day of Period 1. Ruminal morphometric variables evaluated were mitotic index, absorptive surface and papillae number per square centimeter of wall, area per papillae, papillae area as a percentage of absorptive surface, and epithelium, keratinized layer, and nonkeratinized layer thickness. There was marked variation in rumen morphology among the groups of cows. Grazing Jerseys had decreased rumen wall absorptive surface area and basal cells mitotic index, and increased thickness of the epithelium and of the keratin layer compared with cows receiving concentrates. Mean rumen pH throughout the 4 h sampling period was: 6.78 for HVHP, 7.08 for LVHP, and 5.90 for LVLP (P < 0.01). The capacity of the rumen wall to absorb VFA was estimated by the Valerate/CrEDTA technique. The fractional exponential decay rate for the ratio of valeric acid to Cr (k Val/Cr) was determined by rumen digesta sampling at 20-min intervals during 4 h, after the mixing of markers and the return of the evacuated ruminal content. The k Val/Cr values for treatments HVHP, LVHP, and LVLP were, respectively: 19.6, 23.9, and 35.0 %/h (SEM = 2.01; P = 0.21 for contrast HVHP vs. LVHP and P < 0.01 for contrast LVHP vs. LVLP). The k Val/Cr was faster under low pH, but decreasing digesta volume under high pH did not elicit such a response. The correlation between the absorptive surface area per square centimeter of rumen wall and the mean of the 3 k Val/Cr values of each cow was 0.90 (P < 0.01). Cows capable of maintaining a less-acidic rumen environment had greater inflow of water into the digestive cavity, had a more developed rumen mucosa, and were more efficient VFA absorbers.

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