Effects of protozoa on bacterial nitrogen recycling in the rumen

K M Koenig, C J Newbold, F M McIntosh, L M Rode

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94 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of protozoa on ruminal NH3-N kinetics and bacterial N recycling were measured in five sheep (57.6+/-7.1 kg BW, x +/- SD) with ruminal and duodenal cannulas in naturally faunated, defaunated, and refaunated periods. The sheep were fed a diet of 239 g of alfalfa haylage and 814 g of barley concentrate per day (DM basis) divided into 12 equal portions and allocated at 2-h intervals. A pulse dose of 300 mg of 15N as [15N]NH4Cl was administered into the rumen (on d 1 and 15) and 300 mg of 15N as [15N]urea was administered intravenously to the blood (d 8). Enrichment of 15N was measured in ruminal NH3-N, bacterial N, and plasma urea N over a period of 35 h. Total collection of urine was made for 5 d and analyzed for purine derivatives to calculate the flow of microbial N. Ruminal parameters and nutrient digestibilities were also measured. Sheep were defaunated using a rumen washing procedure 50 d prior to measurements in the defaunated period. Sheep were refaunated with ruminal contents from a faunated sheep receiving the same diet. Measurements began 26 d following refaunation, at which time protozoal numbers had returned to those in the originally faunated sheep. Data reported in parentheses are for faunated, defaunated, and refaunated sheep, respectively. Total culturable and cellulolytic bacterial numbers were unaffected by defaunation, but there was an increase in flow of microbial N from the rumen (10.8, 17.3, and 11.1 g N/d; P < .05) in the defaunated period. Flux, irreversible loss, and intraruminal recycling of NH3-N and recycling of NH3-N from plasma urea N were not affected by defaunation. Defaunation had no effect on reducing the absolute amount (13.8, 10.0, and 11.3 g N/d; P > .20) of bacterial N recycling and the percentage of N flux through the bacterial N pool. Total-tract digestion was reduced in defaunated compared with faunated sheep by 8, 17, 15, and 32% for OM, N, NDF, and ADF, respectively. In conclusion, defaunation improved ruminal N metabolism through the enhancement of bacterial protein synthesis, and improvement in the flow of microbial protein to the host animal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2431-45
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPrint publication - Sept 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Bacteria/metabolism
  • Digestion
  • Duodenum/metabolism
  • Eukaryota/metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitrogen/metabolism
  • Rumen/metabolism
  • Sheep/metabolism


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