Effect of supplementing sheep diets with macroalgae species on in vivo nutrient digestibility, rumen fermentation and blood amino acid profile

Animal. 2019 Dec;13(12):2792-2801. doi: 10.1017/S1751731119001502. Epub 2019 Jul 11.


In this study, a brown macroalgae species, Saccharina latissima, processed to increase its protein concentration, and a red macroalgae species, Porphyra spp., were used to evaluate their in vivo digestibility, rumen fermentation and blood amino acid concentrations. Four castrated rams were used, whose diets were supplemented with a protein-rich fraction of S. latissima, a commercial Porphyra spp. and soybean meal (SBM). Our results show that the protein digestibility of a diet with S. latissima extract was lower (0.55) than those with Porphyra spp. (0.64) and SBM (0.66). In spite of the higher nitrogen (N) intake of diets containing Porphyra spp. and SBM (20.9 and 19.8 g N/day, respectively) than that with S. latissima (18.6 g N/day), the ratio of N excreted in faeces to total N intake was significantly higher in the diet with S. latissima than those with Porphyra spp. and SBM. This reflects that the utilization of protein in S. latissima was impaired, possibly due to reduced microbial activity. The latter statement is corroborated by lower volatile fatty acid composition (25.6, 54.8 and 100 mmol/l for S. latissima, Porphyra spp. and SBM, respectively) and a non-significant tendency for lower ammonia concentration observed in diets with S. latissima and Porphyra spp. compared to SBM. It is important to note that the S. latissima used in this trial was rinsed during processing to remove salt. This process potentially also removes other water-soluble compounds, such as free amino acids, and may have increased the relative fraction of protein resistant to rumen degradation and intestinal absorption. Furthermore, the phlorotannins present in macroalgae may have formed complexes with protein and fibre, further limiting their degradability in rumen and absorption in small intestines. We recommend that further studies explore the extent to which processing of macroalgae affects its nutritive properties and rumen degradability, in addition to studies to measure the intestinal absorption of these macroalgae species.

Keywords: Porphyra spp; Saccharina latissima; digestibility; in vivo; ruminant.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / blood*
  • Ammonia / metabolism
  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animals
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Dietary Supplements / analysis*
  • Digestion / drug effects
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Fermentation / drug effects
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Nutrients / metabolism
  • Porphyra*
  • Rumen / metabolism
  • Seaweed
  • Sheep / physiology*
  • Soybeans


  • Amino Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Ammonia
  • Nitrogen