Estimation of the stoichiometry of volatile fatty acid production in the rumen of lactating cows

A. Bannink, J. Kogut, J. Dijkstra, J. France, E. Kebreab, A.M. van Vuuren, S. Tamminga

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126 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to improve the prediction of the quantity and type of Volatile Fatty Acids (VFA) produced from fermented substrate in the rumen of lactating cows. A model was formulated that describes the conversion of substrate (soluble carbohydrates, starch, hemi-cellulose, cellulose, and protein) into VFA (acetate, propionate, butyrate, and other VFA). Inputs to the model were observed rates of true rumen digestion of substrates, whereas outputs were observed molar proportions of VFA in rumen fluid. A literature survey generated data of 182 diets (96 roughage and 86 concentrate diets). Coefficient values that define the conversion of a specific substrate into VFA were estimated meta-analytically by regression of the model against observed VFA molar proportions using non-linear regression techniques. Coefficient estimates significantly differed for acetate and propionate production in particular, between different types of substrate and between roughage and concentrate diets. Deviations of fitted from observed VFA molar proportions could be attributed to random error for 100%. In addition to regression against observed data, simulation studies were performed to investigate the potential of the estimation method. Fitted coefficient estimates from simulated data sets appeared accurate, as well as fitted rates of VFA production, although the model accounted for only a small fraction (maximally 45%) of the variation in VFA molar proportions. The simulation results showed that the latter result was merely a consequence of the statistical analysis chosen and should not be interpreted as an indication of inaccuracy of coefficient estimates. Deviations between fitted and observed values corresponded to those obtained in simulations
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-51
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • ruminal protein-degradation
  • treated soybean-meal
  • dairy-cows
  • small-intestine
  • amino-acids
  • nutrient digestion
  • dietary-protein
  • calcium salts
  • holstein cows
  • grass-silage

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