Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: July 8, 1998
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The essential role of the ruminal microflora in ruminant nutrition provides the potential for improvement of animal production via altering the numbers or activities of specific classes of ruminal microorganisms. Successful alterations will be facilitated by an understanding of the microbial ecology of the rumen based on its mechanistic underpinnings. Demonstrated improvements in the ruminal fermentation can be traced to their consonance with well-established principles of microbial ecology (niche occupancy, selective pressure, adaptation and interactions) and the thermodynamics and kinetics of substrate utilization. Application of these principles to several proposed alterations of the ruminal microflora allow a prediction of their relative feasibility. Improving fiber digestion, decreasing protein degradation, and detoxifying feed components that are present in low concentrations will be difficult to achieve in the rumen and are best approached by altering the feed, either genetically or by post-harvest treatment. By contrast, the detoxification of feed components present in high concentration, and re-direction of electron disposal away from methanogenesis, are more productive targets for microbiological research.