Influence of nitrogen source on the fermentation of fibre from barley straw and sugarbeet pulp by ruminal micro-organisms in vitro

M J Ranilla, M D Carro, S López, C J Newbold, R J Wallace

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Incubations were carried out with a batch culture system to study the effects of different N sources on the fermentation by ruminal micro-organisms from Merino sheep of two fibre substrates derived from feedstuffs that differed in their fermentation rate. The substrates were neutral-detergent fibre (NDF) from barley straw and sugarbeet pulp. N sources were ammonia (NH4Cl) and peptides (Trypticase). Three treatments were made by replacing ammonia-N with peptide-N at levels of 0 (AMMO), 33 (PEPLOW) and 66 % (PEPHIGH) of total N. There were no differences (P>0.05) between treatments in NDF degradation for both the barley straw and the sugarbeet pulp. Peptides increased (P<0.05) total volatile fatty acids daily production for both substrates, with greater values (P<0.001) for PEPHIGH than for PEPLOW for the sugarbeet pulp. The presence of peptides also increased (P<0.05) microbial N synthesis compared with AMMO, with PEPHIGH supporting more growth (P<0.001) than PEPLOW when the sugarbeet pulp NDF was fermented. The presence of peptides increased (P<0.01) the amount of solids-associated micro-organisms (SAM)-N for both the barley straw and the sugarbeet pulp fibres, values in the PEPHIGH treatment being higher (P<0.001) than those in PEPLOW. The proportion of SAM-N in the total microbial N was not affected (P>0.05) by the presence of peptides compared with the AMMO treatment, but values were greater for the PEPHIGH compared with the PEPLOW N source, reaching statistical significance (P<0.05) only for the sugarbeet pulp. For liquid-associated micro-organisms, the AMMO treatment resulted in the greatest (P<0.05) proportion of N derived from ammonia for both substrates, with a further decrease (P<0.01) for the PEPHIGH treatment compared with the PEPLOW for the sugarbeet pulp, indicating preferential uptake of peptides when they were available. Microbial growth efficiency (g microbial N/kg NDF degraded) was not affected (P>0.05) by N source. These results indicate that N forms other than ammonia are needed for maximal growth of fibre-digesting ruminal micro-organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-24
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPrint publication - Dec 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal Feed
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Bacteria/metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins/biosynthesis
  • Dietary Fiber/metabolism
  • Fermentation/physiology
  • Hordeum
  • Nitrogen/administration & dosage
  • Rumen/metabolism
  • Sheep/metabolism


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