A meta-analysis on the effect of dietary application of exogenous fibrolytic enzymes on the performance of dairy cows

J Dairy Sci. 2017 Jun;100(6):4513-4527. doi: 10.3168/jds.2016-12103. Epub 2017 Mar 30.


The aim of this study was to use meta-analytical methods to estimate effects of adding exogenous fibrolytic enzymes (EFE) to dairy cow diets on their performance and to determine which factors affect the response. Fifteen studies with 17 experiments and 36 observations met the study selection criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis. The effects were compared by using random-effect models to examine the raw mean difference (RMD) and standardized mean difference between EFE and control treatments after both were weighted with the inverse of the study variances. Heterogeneity sources evaluated by meta-regression included experimental duration, EFE type and application rate, form (liquid or solid), and method (application to the forage, concentrate, or total mixed ration). Only the cellulase-xylanase (C-X) enzymes had a substantial number of observations (n = 13 studies). Application of EFE, overall, did not affect dry matter intake, feed efficiency but tended to increase total-tract dry matter digestibility and neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) by relatively small amounts (1.36 and 2.30%, respectively, or <0.31 standard deviation units). Application of EFE increased yields of milk (0.83 kg/d), 3.5% fat-corrected milk (0.55 kg/d), milk protein (0.03 kg/d), and milk lactose (0.05 kg/d) by moderate to small amounts (<0.30 standard deviation units). Low heterogeneity (I 2 statistic <25%) was present for yields and concentrations of milk fat and protein and lactose yield. Moderate heterogeneity (I 2 = 25 to 50%) was detected for dry matter intake, milk yield, 3.5% fat-corrected milk, and feed efficiency (kg of milk/kg of dry matter intake), whereas high heterogeneity (I 2 > 50%) was detected for total-tract dry matter digestibility and NDFD. Milk production responses were higher for the C-X enzymes (RMD = 1.04 kg/d; 95% confidence interval: 0.33 to 1.74), but were still only moderate, about 0.35 standardized mean difference. A 24% numerical increase in the RMD resulting from examining only C-X enzymes instead of all enzymes (RMD = 1.04 vs. 0.83 kg/d) suggests that had more studies met the inclusion criteria, the C-X enzymes would have statistically increased the milk response relative to that for all enzymes. Increasing the EFE application rate had no effect on performance measures. Application of EFE to the total mixed ration improved only milk protein concentration, and application to the forage or concentrate had no effect. Applying EFE tended to increase dry matter digestibility and NDFD and increased milk yield by relatively small amounts, reflecting the variable response among EFE types.

Keywords: cellulase; digestibility; fiber; fibrolytic enzymes; xylanase.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cellulase / administration & dosage
  • Dairying
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Digestion / drug effects*
  • Digestion / physiology
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Endo-1,4-beta Xylanases / administration & dosage
  • Enzymes / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Glycolipids / metabolism
  • Glycoproteins / drug effects
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Lactation
  • Lipid Droplets
  • Milk / metabolism*
  • Milk Proteins / metabolism


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Enzymes
  • Glycolipids
  • Glycoproteins
  • Milk Proteins
  • milk fat globule
  • Cellulase
  • Endo-1,4-beta Xylanases