Simulation of the dynamics of protozoa in the rumen

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A modified mathematical model is described that simulates the dynamics of rumen micro-organisms, with specific emphasis on the rumen protozoa. The model is driven by continuous inputs of nutrients and consists of nineteen state variables, which represent the N, carbohydrate, fatty acid and microbial pools in the rumen. Several protozoal characteristics were represented in the model, including preference for utilization of starch and sugars compared with fibre, and of insoluble compared with soluble protein; engulfment and storage of starch; no utilization of NH3 to synthesize amino acids; engulfment and digestion of bacteria and protozoa; selective retention within the rumen; death and lysis related to nutrient availability. Comparisons between model predictions and experimental observations showed reasonable agreement for protozoal biomass in the rumen, but protozoal turnover time was not predicted well. Sensitivity analyses highlighted the need for more reliable estimates of bacterial engulfment rate, protozoal maintenance requirement, and death rate. Simulated protozoal biomass was increased rapidly in response to increases in dietary starch content, but further increases in starch content of a high-concentrate diet caused protozoal mass to decline. Increasing the sugar content of a concentrate diet, decreased protozoa, while moderate elevations of the sugar content on a roughage diet increased protozoal biomass. Simulated protozoal biomass did not change in response to variations in dietary neutral-detergent fibre (NDF) content. Reductions in dietary N resulted in an increased protozoal biomass. Depending on the basal intake level and dietary composition, protozoal concentration in the rumen was either increased or decreased by changes in feed intake level. Such changes in relative amounts of protozoal and bacterial biomass markedly affected the supply of nutrients available for absorption. The integration of protozoal, bacterial and dietary characteristics through mathematical representation provided an improved understanding of mechanisms of protozoal responses to changes in dietary inputs
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-699
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1994

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