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Arch Tierernahr. 1998;51(4):279-91.

Influence of dietary concentrate to forage ratio on the development of rumen mucosa in calves.

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Research Institute of Animal Production Nitra, Slovakia.


Effects of structural and non-structural carbohydrates on the development of rumen fermentation and ruminal mucosa in calves were examined during the weaning period. Barley/soybean meal (SBM) group was fed a concentrate starting from 2 weeks of age, whereas alfalfa group received a mixture of concentrate and alfalfa hay in which the proportion of the latter was gradually increased from 20% to 70% between weeks 2 and 9 of age. The total volatile fatty acid concentration in rumen fluid of calves increased with age, but at 9 weeks there were no significant differences between the two diets (barley/SBM group 153 mmol/l, alfalfa group 150 mmol/l). Rumen papillae at 9 weeks of age, as compared to 6 weeks of age, were longer and fewer in number per square centimetre mucosa, with larger cut surface. This resulted in a higher surface of papillae per square centimetre mucosa at 9 weeks (barley/SBM group 286 mm2/cm2, alfalfa group 245 mm2/cm2) than at 6 weeks of age (barley/SBM group 217 mm2/cm2, alfalfa group 198 mm2/cm2). At 9 weeks of age, the pH (barley/SBM 5.0, alfalfa 5.7), the acetate to propionate ratio (barley/SBM 2.2, alfalfa 3.2) as well as the length of the papillae in the ventral ruminal sac (barley/SBM 1.96 mm, alfalfa 2.37 mm) were increased in the alfalfa group when compared to the barley/SBM group (P < 0.1). In the former group, the proportion of butyrate revealed significantly increased values at 4 and 6 weeks of age. In animals of the barley/SBM group at 9 weeks of age, characteristic protrusions with proliferated thick epithelium occurred on the papillae and increased the surface for absorption. On the epithelium (Stratum corneum) desquamating cells with parakeratosis could be observed. In the alfalfa group the papillae of the ventral ruminal sac were longer, without protrusions. The morphotypes of the adhering rumen microflora differed between the groups. It can be concluded that feeding greater amounts of non-structural carbohydrates increases the surface for absorption of the rumen epithelium in calves. The absence of hyperkeratosis and rumenitis in the barley/SBM group indicated that there is no reason to limit high starch diets in the early weaning period of calves.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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