Submitted to: Applied Dairy Microbiology
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: March 24, 1997
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Ruminant animals are distinguished by a specialized digestive organ, the rumen, in which an active microbial fermentation converts feed to precursors -- primarily volatile fatty acids and microbial cell protein -- used by the animal for growth and milk production. The fermentation is characterized by both competition among species for similar nutrients and syntrophic associations among species at different trophic levels. Because the relative amounts of different fermentation products can affect the yield and quality of milk, control of the relative populations of ruminal species may provide a way to direct the fermentation to enhance animal production. The dairy animal can be negatively affected by metabolic imbalances in the rumen fermentation resulting from improper feeding or from plant toxicoses that may be either attenuated or accentuated by the ruminal microflora. The animal is also subject to infections by various bacterial and viral pathogens. These conditions are sometimes fatal, but even in nonfatal cases the yield and quality of milk may be severely reduced.