Propionate precursors and other metabolic intermediates as possible alternative electron acceptors to methanogenesis in ruminal fermentation in vitro

C J Newbold, S López, N Nelson, J O Ouda, R J Wallace, A R Moss

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Fifteen potential precursors of propionate were tested for their ability to decrease CH4 production by ruminal fluid in vitro. Sodium acrylate and sodium fumarate produced the most consistent effects in batch cultures, with 50 % of the added precursors being fermented to propionate and CH4 production decreasing by between 8 and 17 %, respectively. Additives were more effective when added as free acids, but this also decreased the pH and may have inhibited fibre digestion. Changing the dietary substrate from predominantly grass hay to predominantly concentrate had no influence on the effectiveness of acrylate and fumarate. In an in vitro fermentor (the rumen simulating technique, Rusitec) with a grass hay-concentrate (50:50, w/w) diet as substrate, both compounds were again fermented to propionate (33 and 44 % conversion to propionate, respectively). However, fumarate appeared more effective as a H2 sink compound. It was calculated to capture 44 % of the H2 previously used for CH4 formation compared with a 22 % capture of H2 with acrylate. Fumarate also caused a stimulation in fibre digestion. Thus, sodium fumarate was the preferred propionate precursor for use as a feed ingredient to decrease CH4 emissions from ruminants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPrint publication - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes



  • Acids/metabolism
  • Acrylates/pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fiber/metabolism
  • Digestion/physiology
  • Electrons
  • Fermentation/drug effects
  • Food Additives/metabolism
  • Fumarates/pharmacology
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration/drug effects
  • Methane/metabolism
  • Propionates/metabolism
  • Rumen/metabolism
  • Ruminants
  • Salts/metabolism
  • Sheep/metabolism

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