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Evaluation of predictions of volatile fatty acid production rates by the Molly cow model

Ghimire, S., Gregorini, P., Hanigan, M.D.
Journal of dairy science 2014 v.97 no.1 pp. 354-362
acetates, adenosine diphosphate, adenosine triphosphate, butyrates, carbon dioxide, cows, diet, energy, equations, forage, hydrogen, methane production, models, nutrient partitioning, pH, prediction, propionic acid, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, volatile fatty acids, water balance
Predicting ruminal volatile fatty acid (VFA) production is important, as VFA are an energy source to the animal, affect nutrient partitioning, and dictate methane production. The VFA production submodel in the Molly cow model was evaluated using data from 8 publications that reported VFA production rates for cattle. Evaluations were conducted with ruminal water balance predictions enabled and the ruminal VFA stoichiometry coefficients set to “mixed” for all diets, or “mixed” when forage represented between 20 and 80% of the diet, “concentrate” when <20% forage, or “forage” when >80% forage. Prediction errors were relatively insensitive to changes in VFA coefficients by diet type. Root mean square prediction errors (RMSPE) were 63, 63, and 49% for acetate, propionate, and butyrate production rates, respectively. A large proportion of the error was slope bias for acetate and butyrate, and a modest proportion for propionate. Because interconversions between acetate and propionate represent approximately 15% of the variation in net production rates, lack of such consideration in the model may contribute to the substantial model prediction errors. The potential of using thermodynamic equations to predict interconversions was assessed using observed ruminal pH and VFA concentrations from 2 studies and assuming constant hydrogen pressure and concentrations of CO2, H2O, adenosine diphosphate, ATP, and inorganic P. Rate constants for conversion of acetate to propionate and propionate to acetate were derived independently from the control treatments and used to predict the fluxes for the other treatment. The observed changes in VFA concentrations and pH explained the observed changes in conversion of acetate to propionate, but overpredicted the change in the propionate to acetate flux in one study. When applied to the other study, the equations predicted the increase in propionate to acetate flux, but failed to predict the observed reduction in acetate to propionate flux. The inability to predict responses accurately may be due to a lack of data for controlling factors other than pH and VFA concentrations.