An investigation of the relationship between fecal and rumen bacterial concentrations in sheep

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Laura M. Neumann, Burk A. Dehority
Zoo Biology
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Abstract 10.1002/zoo.20166.abs With no acceptable method for collecting fresh rumen fluid from zoo ruminants, it was proposed that fecal bacterial concentrations may be correlated with rumen bacteria. If so, fecal bacterial concentrations could be used to study both the effects of diet on rumen bacteria as well as rumen abnormalities. Total and cellulolytic bacterial concentrations were determined in whole rumen contents and feces of sheep using a most-probable-number (MPN) assay. In a Latin square design, four crossbred ewes were fed diets of 100% long or chopped orchardgrass hay (OH) and 60% ground or whole shelled corn plus 40% chopped OH. In a second trial, the sheep were fed a pelleted complete feed at varying levels of intake i.e., control at 2.0% of body weight and at 1.8, 1.6, and 1.2% of body weight. Higher total rumen bacterial concentrations (P<0.01) were found on the high concentrate diets as compared with the high forage diets. Grinding the corn also increased total bacterial concentrations (P<0.05). Fecal concentrations of total bacteria were higher (P<0.01) with the high concentrate diets. Chopping the forage decreased the concentration of fecal cellulolytic bacteria (P<0.05) but had no effect on their concentration in the rumen. An inverse linear relationship (P<0.01) was observed between total bacterial concentrations in the feces and diet intake. Although relationships were observed between the rumen and feces for total and cellulolytic bacterial concentrations, they were dependent on diet, particle size, and level of intake. Thus, fecal bacterial concentrations cannot be used to reliably predict rumen bacterial concentrations. Zoo Biol 27:100–108, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


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