Recent Advances in Rumen Microbial Ecology and Metabolism: Potential Impact on Nutrient Output

Roderick I. Mackie, Bryan A. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Feedstuffs consumed by ruminants are all initially exposed to fermentative activity in the rumen prior to gastric and intestinal digestion. The extent and type of transformation of feedstuffs thus determines the productive performance of the host. Research on rumen microbial ecology and metabolism is essentially a study of the interactions between the host, microorganisms present, substrates available, and end products of digestion. Furthermore, the interactions of the normal microbial flora with the host can be manipulated to improve the efficiency of nutrient utilization in ruminant animals. Three important areas of ruminal fermentation will be reviewed, N metabolism, fiber degradation, and biotransformation of toxic compounds. The extent of protein degradation and the rate of uptake of resultant peptides and ammonia are extremely important factors in determining the efficiency of N utilization by rumen bacteria and, therefore, the relative amounts of microbial or bypass protein available to the host. Strategies aimed at identifying and characterizing rate-limiting enzymes of cellulolytic bacteria are essential in elucidating mechanisms involved in ruminal fiber degradation. Results obtained with ruminococci will be described. The detoxification of phytotoxins by passage through the gastrointestinal tract of ruminants is a process deserving special attention and several examples will be presented. Opportunities for manipulation of rumen fermentation are good. However, successful manipulation and full exploitation depend on a through understanding of the mechanisms involved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2971-2995
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1990


  • fiber digestion
  • nitrogen metabolism
  • toxin biotransformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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