Recent advances in modeling nutrient utilization in ruminants1

E. Kebreab, J. Dijkstra, A. Bannink, J. France

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Mathematical modeling techniques have been applied to study various aspects of the ruminant, such as rumen function, post-absorptive metabolism and product composition. This review focuses on advances made in modeling rumen fermentation and its associated rumen disorders, and energy and nutrient utilization and excretion with respect to environmental issues. Accurate prediction of fermentation stoichiometry has impact on estimating the type of energy-yielding substrate available to the animal and the ratio of lipogenic to glucogenic VFA is an important determinant of methanogenesis. Recent advances in modeling VFA stoichiometry offer ways for dietary manipulation to shift the fermentation in favor of glucogenic VFA. Increasing energy to the animal by supplementing with starch can lead to health problems such as sub-acute rumen acidosis (SARA) due to rumen pH depression. Mathematical models have been developed to describe changes in rumen pH and rumen fermentation. Models that relate rumen temperature to rumen pH have also been developed and have the potential to aid in the diagnosis of SARA. The effect of pH has been studied mechanistically and in such models, fractional passage rate has a large impact on substrate degradation and microbial efficiency in the rumen and should be an important theme in future studies. The efficiency with which energy is utilized by ruminants has been updated in recent studies. Mechanistic models of N utilization indicate that reducing dietary protein concentration, matching protein degradability to microbial requirement, and increasing energy status of the animal will reduce output of N as waste. Recent mechanistic P models calculate P requirement by taking into account P recycled through saliva and endogenous losses. Mechanistic P models indicate reducing current P levels for lactating dairy cattle to at least 0.35% P in the diet with potential reduction of up to 1.3 kt/yr. A model that integrates nutrient utilization and health has great potential benefit for ruminant nutrition research. Finally, whole animal or farm level models were discussed. An example that used a multiple criteria decision-making framework is reviewed and the approach is considered to be appropriate in dealing with the multi-dimensional nature of agricultural systems and can be applied to assist the decision process in cattle operations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E111-E122
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • lactating dairy-cows
  • gas-production technique
  • locally available supplements
  • dietary energy-source
  • volatile fatty-acids
  • milk-production
  • central mexico
  • mechanistic model
  • methane production
  • rumen function

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