Effects of feed intake on composition of sheep rumen contents and their microbial population size

Br J Nutr. 2003 Jan;89(1):97-103. doi: 10.1079/BJN2002752.


The present study was conducted to determine the effect of feed intake on the composition of the rumen contents of sheep and on their bacterial densities. Whole rumen contents were sampled after a period of continuous inter-rumen infusion of 15NH3 from four rumen-cannulated wethers successively fed on a hay-concentrate diet (2:1, w/w on a DM basis) at two rates of feed intake: 40 and 80 g DM/kg body weight0.75. Total weight and chemical composition of rumen contents, as well as the distribution by size and chemical composition of particles, were determined. The populations of bacteria associated with the liquid (liquid-associated bacteria, LAB) and solid (solid-associated bacteria, SAB) fractions of rumen digesta and the distribution of SAB according to feed particle size were also examined. The greater feed intake caused an increase in the mass of the rumen contents, while its chemical composition did not change, except for a higher content of organic matter (P=0.023). The distribution of feed particles by size was similar at both levels of intake. The concentrations of neutral- and acid-detergent fibre in feed particles decreased and those of total, dietary, and microbial N increased, both with a quadratic response (P=0.001), as particle size decreased. The proportion of LAB in the microbial biomass of rumen digesta reached only 8.0 %. This proportion and the density of LAB were unaffected by the level of feed intake, whereas an apparent reduction (10.4 %) occurred with the SAB biomass in whole rumen contents. A systematic, but not significant, reduction (mean value 11.9 %) in the level of microbial colonisation in the different particle fractions with the increase of feed intake was also observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Biomass
  • Eating*
  • Gastrointestinal Contents / chemistry*
  • Gastrointestinal Contents / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Transit
  • Male
  • Rumen / chemistry*
  • Rumen / microbiology
  • Sheep / metabolism*
  • Sheep / microbiology