Assessing How Tannin and Oil Mixes Impact Cow Digestion

Jenn Hoskins
3rd April, 2024

Assessing How Tannin and Oil Mixes Impact Cow Digestion

Key Findings

  • In a University of Pisa study, plant-based supplements reduced cow methane emissions
  • Supplements Q-2 and C-10 were as effective as commercial products in cutting methane by 12%
  • Unlike commercial options, Q-2 and C-10 didn't harm feed digestion or microbial diversity
In recent years, the agricultural sector has faced increasing pressure to reduce its environmental footprint, particularly concerning greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Ruminants, such as cows, are significant contributors to methane production, a potent greenhouse gas. To address this, researchers have been exploring dietary supplements that can decrease these emissions without compromising animal health or productivity. A team from the University of Pisa has conducted a study[1] that builds upon previous research into the effects of plant-based dietary supplements on ruminant digestion and methane production. They focused on two specific supplements: Q-2, a mixture of quebracho extract and an essential oil compound (EOC) blend containing carvacrol, thymol, and eugenol; and C-10, composed of chestnut extract and an EOC blend of oregano and thyme essential oils with limonene. The study employed a semi-continuous rumen simulation technique (Rusitec) to mimic the conditions within a cow's stomach. Over a period of 10 days, the researchers compared the effects of Q-2 and C-10 with a non-supplemented diet (negative control, NC) and a diet supplemented with Agolin® Ruminant (positive control, PC), a commercial EOC-based product. The results were promising. Both Q-2 and C-10 were as effective as the positive control in reducing ammonia and methane formation. Specifically, Q-2 decreased ammonia production by 37%, while C-10 and the positive control both reduced methane emissions by 12%. These findings suggest that these supplements could be viable alternatives to the commercial product for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from ruminants. Interestingly, while the positive control led to a decrease in feed degradability and in the diversity of bacterial and fungal communities within the rumen, Q-2 and C-10 did not have such pronounced effects. This indicates that they may operate through different mechanisms than the commercial supplement. The study's findings align with earlier investigations into plant polyphenols and EOCs. For instance, previous research[2] has shown that plant polyphenols can influence rumen microbiota, affecting the digestion of fiber and production of methane. Similarly, essential oils have been noted[3] to alter rumen fermentation, improving feed efficiency and reducing methane emissions. Moreover, the study corroborates the notion that essential oils can modulate specific microbial populations within the rumen, thereby improving fermentation efficiency and reducing energy losses in the form of methane[4]. The promising results with bornyl acetate in reducing methane without inhibiting volatile fatty acid production[5] further support the potential of EOCs as dietary additives. While the precise mechanisms by which Q-2 and C-10 exert their effects remain to be fully understood, the University of Pisa's research contributes to a growing body of evidence that natural dietary supplements can play a role in sustainable livestock management. By mitigating methane and ammonia formation, these supplements not only help reduce the environmental impact of ruminant agriculture but also offer a socially acceptable alternative to antibiotics and other synthetic additives. The implications of this research are significant, as they offer practical solutions for farmers aiming to improve the sustainability of their practices. The study's findings may also guide future research into the development of new, more effective natural supplements that could be tailored to specific livestock diets and farming systems. In summary, the University of Pisa's study provides valuable insights into the potential of plant-based dietary supplements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ruminants. By incorporating earlier findings[2][3][4][5], the study not only reinforces the viability of these supplements but also opens the door to further innovation in the field of animal nutrition and environmental stewardship.

NutritionBiotechAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Evaluation of ruminal methane and ammonia formation and microbiota composition as affected by supplements based on mixtures of tannins and essential oils using Rusitec.

Published 2nd April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Invited review: Plant polyphenols and rumen microbiota responsible for fatty acid biohydrogenation, fiber digestion, and methane emission: Experimental evidence and methodological approaches.

3) Modulation of milking performance, methane emissions, and rumen microbiome on dairy cows by dietary supplementation of a blend of essential oils.

4) Invited review: Essential oils as modifiers of rumen microbial fermentation.

Journal: Journal of dairy science, Issue: Vol 90, Issue 6, Jun 2007

5) In vitro Screening of Essential Oil Active Compounds for Manipulation of Rumen Fermentation and Methane Mitigation.

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