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Tannins in tropical tree fodders fed to small ruminants: A friendly foe?

Alonso-Díaz, M.A., Torres-Acosta, J.F.J., Sandoval-Castro, C.A., Hoste, H.
Small ruminant research 2010 v.89 no.2-3 pp. 164-173
animal nutrition, anthelmintics, binding capacity, feeds, forage, functional foods, gastrointestinal nematodes, gastrointestinal system, goats, in vivo studies, ingestion, livestock production, polyethylene glycol, production technology, saliva, sheep, shrubs, tannins, trees
Livestock production systems worldwide rely largely on conventional feedstuffs. The current world food crisis highlights the need to improve the use of local resources for animal nutrition, such as fodder trees and shrubs. The detrimental effects of tropical tannin-rich plants (TRP) on animal production have been frequently described. In contrast, their potential benefits have long been neglected. This paper presents the potential positive effects of tropical TRP on small ruminants either as source of feed or as nutraceuticals with anthelmintic (AH) properties. It also analyses the host behavioral and physiological adaptations associated with exploitation of those tannin-rich resources. Both sheep and goats preferred a mixture of plants even when tannin-free forage was available. Moreover, the preference for TRP by goats and hair sheep were mainly associated with the digestible fraction of fiber and to a less extent with tannin content, which implies that they do not necessarily select against TRP. The addition of polyethylene glycol did not modify the preference or intake of TRP by goats and sheep. Evidence of physiological adaptation to TRP is presented and discussed. Both, experienced hair sheep and goats had saliva with tannin binding capacity, enabling both species to eat higher quantities of TRP which could lead to a higher availability of tannins in the gastrointestinal tract. Tannins in the gastrointestinal tract could be an AH against gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN). Indeed, in vitro and in vivo studies have shown AH effects of tannins from TRP, suggesting their possible use as natural anthelmintics against GIN. This paper supports the change in the current view of tannins in TRP as anti-nutritional compounds. If adequately managed, TRP can be a valuable component of sustainable small ruminant production systems.