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Revised digestive parameter estimates for the Molly cow model

Hanigan, M.D., Appuhamy, J.A.D.R.N., Gregorini, P.
Journal of dairy science 2013 v.96 no.6 pp. 3867-3885
acid detergent fiber, ammonia, animal performance, blood, cows, databases, environmental impact, equations, metabolism, microbial growth, model validation, models, neutral detergent fiber, nutrients, pH, prediction, protein degradation, rumen, rumen fermentation, starch, volatile fatty acids
The Molly cow model represents nutrient digestion and metabolism based on a mechanistic representation of the key biological elements. Digestive parameters were derived ad hoc from literature observations or were assumed. Preliminary work determined that several of these parameters did not represent the true relationships. The current work was undertaken to derive ruminal and postruminal digestive parameters and to use a meta-approach to assess the effects of interactions among nutrients and identify areas of model weakness. Model predictions were compared with a database of literature observations containing 233 treatment means. Mean square prediction errors were assessed to characterize model performance. Ruminal pH prediction equations had substantial mean bias, which caused problems in fiber digestion and microbial growth predictions. The pH prediction equation was reparameterized simultaneously with the several ruminal and postruminal digestion parameters, resulting in more realistic parameter estimates for ruminal fiber digestion, and moderate reductions in prediction errors for pH, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, and microbial N outflow from the rumen; and postruminal digestion of neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, and protein. Prediction errors are still large for ruminal ammonia and outflow of starch from the rumen. The gain in microbial efficiency associated with fat feeding was found to be more than twice the original estimate, but in contrast to prior assumptions, fat feeding did not exert negative effects on fiber and protein degradation in the rumen. Microbial responses to ruminal ammonia concentrations were half saturated at 0.2mM versus the original estimate of 1.2mM. Residuals analyses indicated that additional progress could be made in predicting microbial N outflow, volatile fatty acid production and concentrations, and cycling of N between blood and the rumen. These additional corrections should lead to an even more robust representation of the effects of dietary nutrients on ruminal metabolism and nutrient absorption, of animal performance, and the environmental impact of dairy production.