Supplementation to improve utilization of low quality forages by ruminants
In the United Kingdom ruminants are mainly depend on pasture land involving grazed grass and cereal grains. But in winter season green grass is not available so ruminants are supplied by silage, wheat or other straw and low quality hay supplemented with cereal grains or other supplements. Storage of silage, straw and hay causes decline in nutrients. Ruminal microbial activity is essential for the use of structural carbohydrates and the synthesis of high quality protein in ruminants. But microbial fermentation may result in considerable energy and protein losses as methane and ammonia N. So it is needed to find out additives that can also be used as supplements to reduce nutrient loss as methane and nitrogen. It would be desirable if these supplements or additives improve the efficiency of nutrient use in the rumen as well. These supplements could be of energy or protein origins but the selection of the most suitable supplement to match the needs of a ruminant animal is essential. So a comparative study is proposed to determine which energy or protein sources are better and what quantity is best to enhance rumen microbial fermentation. This study will examine the effects of different energy and protein or nitrogen sources individually and in combinations on forage utilisation in ruminants. Alongside these traditional sources of supplements, some plant extracts which are safe for human consumption and also have antimicrobial properties will also be included in this study. However, it may be possible that these herbs could be used as additives alone or in combination with some of the carbohydrate and nitrogen sources to optimise rumen fermentation to enhance forage utilisation and hence reduce nutrient wastage in ruminants. Initially, in vitro studies will be carried out to select the most appropriate herb perhaps in combination with a carbohydrate or nitrogen source to optimise the rumen microbial fermentation to enhance the utilisation of low quality forages such as grass hay and cereal straw. The studies will then be extended to examine the effect of this herb-supplement combination on forage utilisation and nutrient wastage in sheep.