Relationship between fermentation acid production in the rumen and the requirement for physically effective fiber

J Dairy Sci. 1997 Jul;80(7):1447-62. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(97)76074-0.


The content of ruminally fermented OM in the diet affects the fiber requirement of dairy cattle. Physically effective fiber is the fraction of feed that stimulates chewing activity. Chewing, in turn, stimulates saliva secretion. Bicarbonate and phosphate buffers in saliva neutralize acids produced by fermentation of OM in the rumen. The balance between the production of fermentation acid and buffer secretion is a major determinant of ruminal pH. Low ruminal pH may decrease DMI, fiber digestibility, and microbial yield and thus decrease milk production and increase feed costs. Diets should be formulated to maintain adequate mean ruminal pH, and variation in ruminal pH should be minimized by feeding management. The fraction of OM that is fermented in the rumen varies greatly among diets. This variation affects the amount of fermentation acids produced and directly affects the amount of physically effective fiber that is required to maintain adequate ruminal pH. Acid production in the rumen is due primarily to fermentation of carbohydrates, which represent over 65% of the DM in diets of dairy cows and have the most variable ruminal degradation across diets. The non-fiber carbohydrate content of the diet is often used as a proxy for ruminal fermentability, but this measure is inadequate. Ruminal fermentation of both nonfiber carbohydrate and fiber is extremely variable, and this variability is not related to the nonfiber carbohydrate content of the diet. The interaction of ruminally fermented carbohydrate and physically effective fiber must be considered when diets for dairy cattle are evaluated and formulated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Water / metabolism
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Fermentation*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mastication
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Rumen / metabolism*
  • Time Factors