Further assessment of the protozoal contribution to the nutrition of the ruminant animal

Sarah E. Hook*, James France, J. Dijkstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The flow of protozoa from the reticulo-rumen is lower than expected, due to ability of protozoa to prevent washout through sequestration on feed particles and the rumen epithelium. In order to estimate the distribution of protozoa within the reticulo-rumen and passage to the omasum, Czerkawski (1987) developed a model containing pools for the rumen liquid phase, rumen solid phase, and the omasum. This model was used to estimate loss of protozoa in the omasum as well as the amount of protozoal protein available to the animal in the lower gut. A number of assumptions were incorporated into the model, some of which appear unsupported by current research. This paper represents an update, revision, and re-evaluation of Czerkawski's model, where the assumptions that all protozoa in the ‘attached’ phase are in solid digesta, and that protozoa only leave the rumen in the liquid, have been relaxed. Therefore, the revised model allows for sequestration of protozoa on the rumen epithelium and protozoal passage with particulate outflow. Using experimental observations with inputs within biological limits, the revised model and Czerkawski's original model were verified. The effect of diet on the model was then assessed using inputs from a 100% forage diet and a 35–65% concentrate diet. The extent of sequestration was also varied from complete sequestration, to partial sequestration, and no sequestration. A sensitivity analysis was conducted through a linear regression of perturbed mean inputs versus outputs. The results from the revised model indicate that within the reticulo-rumen, the concentrate diet has a greater fractional flow rate of protozoa from the liquid to solid phase, but a lesser fractional flow rate back to the liquid phase, compared to the forage diet. As well, the concentrate diet has a slower net growth rate of protozoa in the attached phase, compared to the forage diet. In the omasum, the forage diet has a less negative net growth rate, compared to the concentrate diet. The forage diet was also associated with smaller loss of protozoa from the omasum. There are limited data from the omasum to be incorporated into the revised model, especially for quantity of protozoa in the omasum. Further research on quantification of protozoa in the omasum could strengthen the predictions made by the model. Despite this, the revised model found a loss of protozoa in the omasum similar to that suggested by Czerkawski's original model 65–73% versus 66%. The revised model results indicate that efforts to increase protozoal flow to the duodenum should focus on reduced sequestration and increased outflow rate from the rumen, although more research is needed to quantify protozoa in the omasum, and to investigate the role of sequestration onto the wall of the reticulo-rumen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-15
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Model
  • Omasum
  • Protozoa
  • Reticulo-rumen
  • Sequestration

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