The implications of condensed tannins on the nutritive value of temperate forages fed to ruminants

Br J Nutr. 1999 Apr;81(4):263-72.


New methodology for measuring forage condensed tannin (CT) content is described and the effects of CT upon forage feeding and nutritive value for ruminant animals are reviewed. CT react with forage proteins in a pH-reversible manner, with reactivity determined by the concentration, structure and molecular mass of the CT. Increasing concentrations of CT in Lotus corniculatus and Lotus pedunculatus reduce the rates of solubilization and degradation of fraction 1 leaf protein in the rumen and increase duodenal non-NH3 N flow. Action of medium concentrations of total CT in Lotus corniculatus (30-40 g/kg DM) increased the absorption of essential amino acids from the small intestine and increased wool growth, milk secretion and reproductive rate in grazing sheep without affecting voluntary feed intake, thus improving the efficiency of food conversion. High concentrations of CT in Lotus pedunculatus (75-100 g/kg DM) depressed voluntary feed intake and rumen carbohydrate digestion and depressed rates of body and wool growth in grazing sheep. The minimum concentration of CT to prevent rumen frothy bloat in cattle is defined as 5 g/kg DM and sheep grazing CT-containing legumes were shown to better tolerate internal parasite infections than sheep grazing non CT-containing forages. It was concluded that defined concentrations of forage CT can be used to increase the efficiencies of protein digestion and animal productivity in forage-fed ruminants and to develop more ecologically sustainable systems of controlling some diseases under grazing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism
  • Animal Feed*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Animals
  • Climate
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Digestion
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Nutritive Value
  • Ruminants / growth & development
  • Ruminants / metabolism*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tannins / administration & dosage*
  • Tannins / chemistry
  • Tannins / metabolism


  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Tannins