The contribution of mathematical modelling to understanding dynamic aspects of rumen metabolism

A. Bannink*, H.J. van Lingen, J.L. St-Pierre, J. France, J. Dijkstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


All mechanistic rumen models cover the main drivers of variation in rumen function, which are feed intake, the differences between feedstuffs and feeds in their intrinsic rumen degradation characteristics, and fractional outflow rate of fluid and particulate matter. Dynamic modeling approaches are best suited to the prediction of more nuanced responses in rumen metabolism, and represent the dynamics of the interactions between substrates and micro-organisms and inter-microbial interactions. The concepts of dynamics are discussed for the case of rumen starch digestion as influenced by starch intake rate and frequency of feed intake, and for the case of fermentation of fiber in the large intestine. Adding representations of new functional classes of micro-organisms (i.e., with new characteristics from the perspective of whole rumen function) in rumen models only delivers new insights if complemented by the dynamics of their interactions with other functional classes. Rumen fermentation conditions have to be represented due to their profound impact on the dynamics of substrate degradation and microbial metabolism. Although the importance of rumen pH is generally acknowledged, more emphasis is needed on predicting its variation as well as variation in the processes that underlie rumen fluid dynamics. The rumen wall has an important role in adapting to rapid changes in the rumen environment, clearing of volatile fatty acids (VFA), and maintaining rumen pH within limits. Dynamics of rumen wall epithelia and their role in VFA absorption needs to be better represented in models that aim to predict rumen responses across nutritional or physiological states. For a detailed prediction of rumen N balance there is merit in a dynamic modeling approach compared to the static approaches adopted in current protein evaluation systems. Improvement is needed on previous attempts to predict rumen VFA profiles, and this should be pursued by introducing factors that relate more to microbial metabolism. For rumen model construction, data on rumen microbiomes are preferably coupled with knowledge consolidated in rumen models instead of relying on correlations with rather general aspects of treatment or animal. This helps to prevent the disregard of basic principles and underlying mechanisms of whole rumen function.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1820
Number of pages16
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Dynamic models
  • Rumen digestion
  • Rumen microbiota
  • Rumen regulatory mechanisms
  • Volatile fatty acids


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