Changes in the composition of digesta during passage through the small intestines of steers

Br J Nutr. 1981 Nov;46(3):431-40. doi: 10.1079/bjn19810051.


1. Dry matter (DM), organic matter (OM), nitrogenous constituents, carbohydrate constituents and pH were estimated in digesta taken from eight different sites in the small intestines of slaughtered steers given different diets. Amounts of constituents passing different sites were compared using cellulose as a non-digestible marker. 2. Amounts of the different constituents entering the small intestines varied with the type of diet given but the patterns of removal of each constituent were similar regardless of diet. 3. DM and OM were uniformly down the length of the small intestines. Net digestibilities of 0.62 and 0.63 for DM and OM respectively of the amounts measured in segment 1 digesta (first 3 m post-pylorus) were found at the terminal ileum. DM and OM contents of segment 1 digesta were 5 and 8% higher respectively than in abomasal digesta. Significantly smaller amounts of digesta were found in the proximal quarter of the small intestines than in more distal sections. There was a 10% addition of water to digesta in segment 1 compared with abomasal digesta. Of the water entering the small intestines a net 65% was absorbed therein, most absorption occurring in the first half. 4. Ammonia nitrogen was removed uniformly down the length of the small intestines to a net extent of 75% of that in segment 1 digesta. There was an apparent increase of approximately 18% in the total N (TN) content of segment 1 digesta compared with abomasal digesta. There was an approximate net removal of 80% of the TN measured in segment 1 digesta during passage down the small intestines. Over 95% of the digestible TN was removed in the section of tract between 3 and 15 m from the pylorus. Net removal of nucleic acid N (NA-N) up to the distal ileum was 78% of that in segment 1 digesta, most removal occurred in the proximal quarter of the small intestine. Little or no net loss of diaminopimelic acid-N (DAP-N) occurred in the small intestine. 5. Of the carbohydrates entering the small intestines, there was little or no removal of rhamnose, arabinose or xylose. Net removal of ribose, mannose, galactose and 'starch' glucose up to the distal ileum was 82, 76, 54 and 70% respectively of the amounts found in segment 1 digesta. All disappeared uniformly down the length of the small intestine.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Cattle / metabolism*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Digestion*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Water / metabolism


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Water
  • Nitrogen