Boosting Digestion in Cattle with Alternanthera Sissoo Pellets

Greg Howard
3rd May, 2024

Boosting Digestion in Cattle with Alternanthera Sissoo Pellets

Image Source: Jak Jones (photographer)

Key Findings

  • In a Thai study, adding Brazilian spinach pellets to cattle diets didn't change their digestion or methane output
  • Higher Brazilian spinach pellet levels led to fewer stomach protozoa but didn't reduce methane as expected
  • The study suggests plant supplements' effects on cattle digestion and emissions are complex and vary
Researchers at Khon Kaen University have conducted a study[1] focusing on the impact of Brazilian spinach (Alternanthera sissoo) pellet (BSP) supplementation on various aspects of beef cattle digestion and methane production. This research could help in understanding how dietary changes affect the environmental footprint of cattle farming and the health of the animals. The study involved four male Thai native beef cattle, which were given different levels of BSP in their diet. The goal was to observe any changes in rumen fermentation, the population of protozoa in the stomach, and estimations of methane production, which is a potent greenhouse gas. The cattle's diet was composed of rice straw (40% of dry matter intake or DMI) and a concentrate (60% of DMI), with the BSP supplement added on top at varying levels from 2% to 8% of DMI. Contrary to what might be expected, the addition of BSP did not affect the cattle's feed intake, nutrient intake, or how efficiently they digested their food. Similarly, there was no significant change in the rumen's pH level or the concentration of ammonia-nitrogen, which is a measure of protein breakdown in the rumen. The amount of total volatile fatty acids, which are a byproduct of fermentation and an important source of energy for the cattle, also remained unchanged with BSP supplementation. Interestingly, while the overall digestion and fermentation process seemed unaffected by the addition of BSP, the study did observe a linear decrease in the population of protozoa in the rumen with higher levels of BSP. Protozoa in the rumen help in the breakdown of feed particles, but they are also associated with the production of methane. One might assume that a decrease in protozoa would lead to a reduction in methane emissions; however, the study did not find a corresponding decrease in methane estimation. In previous studies, dietary supplementation with plant flavonoids has been shown to alter rumen fermentation and reduce methane emissions[2][3][4]. For instance, mulberry leaves, rich in flavonoids, were found to enhance milk production and reduce methane production in ruminants[3]. Similarly, an extract of plant flavonoids, Bioflavex, was observed to improve rumen fermentation and potentially reduce the incidence of rumen acidosis in cattle[4]. These studies suggest that plant-based supplements can have significant effects on rumen ecology and methane production. However, the Khon Kaen University study suggests that not all plant supplements act in the same way. Despite the decrease in protozoal population, the Brazilian spinach pellets did not significantly impact methane production, indicating that the relationship between dietary supplements, rumen microorganisms, and methane emissions is complex and may depend on the specific type of plant and its compounds. Furthermore, the research also noted a linear increase in blood urea-nitrogen concentration with higher levels of BSP supplementation. This could indicate changes in protein metabolism or nitrogen utilization in the body, although nitrogen balance was unaffected. In conclusion, the study from Khon Kaen University adds to the growing body of evidence that diet can influence the rumen environment and the efficiency of livestock production. While the BSP did not have the expected effects on methane production, its impact on protozoal populations could still be of interest for further research. As the agricultural sector continues to seek ways to reduce its environmental impact and improve animal health, understanding the nuanced effects of different dietary supplements remains a critical area of study.

AgricultureNutritionAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Supplementation of Alternanthera sissoo pellets on feed digestion, rumen fermentation, and protozoal population in Thai native beef cattle.

Published 15th May, 2024 (future Journal edition)

Related Studies

2) Ultraviolet-absorbing compounds in milk are related to forage polyphenols.

3) Potential of Mulberry Leaf Biomass and Its Flavonoids to Improve Production and Health in Ruminants: Mechanistic Insights and Prospects.

4) Effects of an extract of plant flavonoids (Bioflavex) on rumen fermentation and performance in heifers fed high-concentrate diets.

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