Alternative methodologies - stretching the in vitro box
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2005.04.023
Current gas-based in vitro evaluation systems are extremely powerful research techniques. However they have the potential to generate a great deal more than simple fermentation dynamics. Details from four experiments are presented in which adaptation, and novel application, of an in vitro system allowed widely differing objectives to be examined. In the first two studies, complement methodologies were utilised. In such assays, an activity or outcome is inferred through the occurrence of a secondary event rather than by direct observation. Using an N-deficient incubation medium, the increase in starch fermentation, when supplemented with individual amino acids (i.e., known level of N) relative to that of urea (i.e., known quantity and N availability), provided an estimate of their microbial utilisation. Due to the low level of response observed with some arnino acids (notably methionine and lysine), it was concluded, that they may not need to be offered in a rumen-inert form to escape rumen microbial degradation. In another experiment, the extent to which degradation of plant cell wall components was inhibited by lipid supplementation was evaluated using fermentation gas release profiles of washed hay. The different responses due to lipid source and level of inclusion suggested that the degree of rumen protection required to ameliorate this depression was supplement dependent. That in vitro inocula differ in their microbial composition is of little interest per se, as long as the outcome is the same (i.e., that similar substrates are degraded at comparable rates and end-product release is equivalent). However where a microbial population is deficient in a particular activity, increasing the level of inoculation will have no benefit. Estimates of hydrolytic activity were obtained by examining fermentation kinetics of specific substrates. A number of studies identified a fundamental difference between rumen fluid and faecal inocula, with the latter having a lower fibrolytic activity, which could not be completely attributed to microbial numbers. The majority of forage maize is offered as an ensiled feed, however most of the information on which decisions such as choice of variety, crop management and harvesting date are made is based on fresh crop measurements. As such, an attempt was made to estimate ensiled maize quality from an in vitro analysis of the fresh crop. Fermentation profiles and chemical analysis confirmed changes in crop composition over the growing season, and loss of labile carbohydrates during ensiling. In addition, examination of degradation residues allowed metabolizable energy (ME) contents to be estimated. Due to difficulties associated with starch analysis, the observation that this parameter could be predicted by difference (together with an assumed degradability), allowed an estimate of ensiled maize ME to be developed from fresh material. In addition, the contribution of the main carbohydrates towards ME showed the importance of delaying harvest until maximum starch content has been achieved. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.