Assessment of rumen processes by selected-ion-flow-tube mass spectrometric analysis of rumen gases

RJ Dewhurst, RT Evans, TT Mottram, P Spanel, D Smith

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37 Citations (Scopus)


This work investigated the potential to use measurement of the concentration of certain gases in the rumen headspace to gain information about rumen processes and as a potential diagnostic tool. We used new equipment (selected-ion-flow-tube mass spectrometer) that allows rapid and precise analysis of many of the gases present in a sample. Samples of rumen headspace gas and corresponding samples of rumen liquor were taken from three lactating cows, prepared with rumen fistulae, at intervals after receiving their morning feed allocation (grass silage and concentrates). Hydrogen sulfide, methyl sulfide, and dimethyl sulfide, were the predominant gases that were measured in the rumen headspace by this technique. The concentrations of these sulfur compounds declined over the interval after feeding, mirroring ammonia concentrations measured in rumen liquor, reflecting their common dependence on the fermentation of sulfur amino acids. Ammonia concentrations in rumen headspace gas varied in the opposite direction to the concentration of ammonia in rumen liquor and likely depend more on the pH of rumen liquor. Consideration of the pKa of ammonia suggests that ammonia concentrations in rumen gas will be very low below pH 6, representing a useful diagnostic for subacute ruminal acidosis. Low concentrations of volatile fatty acids were detected in rumen gas. The molar proportions of volatile fatty acids were similar in gas and liquor samples, with rumen gas containing slightly less acetic acid and disproportionately more valeric and caproic acids.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1438-1444
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPrint publication - Jun 2001


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