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Effects of including saponins (Micro-Aid®) on intake, rumen fermentation and digestibility in steers fed low-quality prairie hay

McMurphy, C.P., Sexten, A.J., Mourer, G.L., Sharman, E.D., Trojan, S.J., Rincker, M.J., Coblentz, W.K., Lalman, D.L.
Animal feed science and technology 2014 v.190 pp. 47
acetates, animal performance, blood, body weight, cattle feeding, cottonseed meal, crude protein, digestibility, hay, middlings, neutral detergent fiber, nitrogen balance, protein supplements, rumen, rumen fermentation, rumen protozoa, saponins, small intestine, steers, urea nitrogen, volatile fatty acids, wheat meal
Sixteen ruminally cannulated crossbred steers (529±45kg initial body weight, BW) were used to evaluate in situ dry matter (DM), neutral detergent fiber (aNDF), and N degradation characteristics of low-quality prairie hay, blood urea-N (BUN) and rumen fermentation parameters in steers provided a protein supplement with or without Micro-Aid® (MA; plant derived saponin). Steers were allowed ad libitum access to chopped prairie hay (49g crude protein (CP)/kg DM and 738g aNDF/kg DM) and randomly assigned to one of four treatments: (1) no supplement (C), (2) cottonseed meal and wheat middlings: 920g DM/d (PC; positive control), (3) MA added to PC to supply 1g MA/d (MA1), and (4) MA added to PC to supply 2g MA/d (MA2). Steers were individually supplemented 920g DM once daily at 08:00 along with a vitamin and mineral mix to ensure requirements were met. Orthogonal contrasts were used to determine the effects of protein supplementation, addition of MA and level of MA inclusion. During in situ phase, forage samples were incubated for a 96h period. Protein supplementation increased DM intake (DMI), particulate passage rate (Kp), and rumen digestibility of DM and NDF (P<0.001), but there was no effect on rumen N degradability. The inclusion of MA did not impact DMI in either phase. Compared to PC, MA decreased Kp (27.8 and 22.7g DM/kg/h, respectively; P=0.02), resulting in an increase in rumen aNDF and DM digestibility (P<0.001). However, there was no influence of MA on apparent total tract digestibility in the metabolism phase. Rumen protozoa concentrations were suppressed (P=0.01) with MA inclusion while lactate concentrations and microbial crude protein (MCP) flow to the small intestine were increased (P=0.05). There was no impact on BUN, rumen ammonia, pH, volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentrations or N balance for MA compared to PC diets. Supplementation improved N balance, MCP synthesis and increased total concentrations of VFA and independent acetate and propionate concentrations. In conclusion, including MA in protein supplements increased rumen DM and a NDF digestibility of forage, reduced protozoa concentrations and increased daily outflow of MCP. This is indicative of increased rumen fermentation rate and may ultimately impact animal performance via increased energy and amino acid supply to the small intestine. However, more research is needed to validate this potential impact on animal performance.