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Acidosis in Cattle: A Review


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Acute and chronic acidosis, conditions that follow ingestion of excessive amounts of readily fermented carbohydrate, are prominent production problems for ruminants fed diets rich in concentrate. Often occurring during adaptation to concentrate-rich diets in feedyards, chronic acidosis may continue during the feeding period. With acute acidosis, ruminal acidity and osmolality increase markedly as acids and glucose accumulate; these can damage the ruminal and intestinal wall, decrease blood pH, and cause dehydration that proves fatal. Laminitis, polioencephalomalacia, and liver abscesses often accompany acidosis. Even after animals recover from a bout of acidosis, nutrient absorption may be retarded. With chronic acidosis, feed intake typically is reduced but variable, and performance is depressed, probably due to hypertonicity of digesta. Acidosis control measures include feed additives that inhibit microbial strains that produce lactate, that stimulate activity of lactate-using bacteria or starch-engulfing ruminal protozoa, and that reduce meal size. Inoculation with microbial strains capable of preventing glucose or lactate accumulation or metabolizing lactate at a low pH should help prevent acidosis. Feeding higher amounts of dietary roughage, processing grains less thoroughly, and limiting the quantity of feed should reduce the incidence of acidosis, but these practices often depress performance and economic efficiency. Continued research concerning grain processing, dietary cation-anion balance, narrow-spectrum antibiotics, glucose or lactate utilizing microbes, and feeding management (limit or program feeding) should yield new methods for reducing the incidence of acute and chronic acidosis.
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F. N. Owens, D. S. Secrist, W. J. Hill and D. R. Gill
Acidosis in cattle: a review
1998, 76:275-286.J ANIM SCI
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Presented at a symposium titled “Bud Britton Memorial
Symposium on Metabolic Disorders of Feedlot Cattle,” July 1996,
following the ASAS 88th Annu. Mtg., Rapid City, SD. Financial
support was provided by Elanco Animal Health. Approved for
publication by the Director, Oklahoma Agric. Exp. Sta. This
research was supported under Project H-2123.
To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received September 3, 1996.
Accepted March 27, 1997.
Acidosis in Cattle: A Review
F. N. Owens
, D. S. Secrist, W. J. Hill, and D. R. Gill
Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station, Animal Science Department, Stillwater 74078
ABSTRACT: Acute and chronic acidosis, conditions
that follow ingestion of excessive amounts of readily
fermented carbohydrate, are prominent production
problems for ruminants fed diets rich in concentrate.
Often occurring during adaptation to concentrate-rich
diets in feedyards, chronic acidosis may continue
during the feeding period. With acute acidosis, rumi-
nal acidity and osmolality increase markedly as acids
and glucose accumulate; these can damage the rumi-
nal and intestinal wall, decrease blood pH, and cause
dehydration that proves fatal. Laminitis, polioen-
cephalomalacia, and liver abscesses often accompany
acidosis. Even after animals recover from a bout of
acidosis, nutrient absorption may be retarded. With
chronic acidosis, feed intake typically is reduced but
variable, and performance is depressed, probably due
to hypertonicity of digesta. Acidosis control measures
include feed additives that inhibit microbial strains
that produce lactate, that stimulate activity of lactate-
using bacteria or starch-engulfing ruminal protozoa,
and that reduce meal size. Inoculation with microbial
strains capable of preventing glucose or lactate
accumulation or metabolizing lactate at a low pH
should help prevent acidosis. Feeding higher amounts
of dietary roughage, processing grains less thoroughly,
and limiting the quantity of feed should reduce the
incidence of acidosis, but these practices often depress
performance and economic efficiency. Continued
research concerning grain processing, dietary cation-
anion balance, narrow-spectrum antibiotics, glucose or
lactate utilizing microbes, and feeding management
(limit or program feeding) should yield new methods
for reducing the incidence of acute and chronic
Key Words: Acidosis, Grain, Engorgement, Rumen, Osmotic Pressure
1998 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved. J. Anim. Sci. 1998. 76:275–286
By definition, acidosis is a decrease in the alkali
(base excess) in body fluids relative to the acid
(hydrogen ion) content (Stedman, 1982). Because pH
of body fluids is buffered by bicarbonate, the pH of
body fluids may or may not be depressed during
acidosis, depending on the degree to which bicar-
bonate compensation is possible. Central nervous
system function can be disturbed by low bicarbonate
concentrations even if blood pH is not depressed.
Although clinical diagnosis of acidosis requires blood
pH to fall below 7.35, other clinical signs such as
ruminal pH, anorexia, variable feed intake, diarrhea,
and lethargy are the routine diagnostic indications of
acidosis of feedlot cattle. The etiology of ruminal and
systemic acidosis has been described in excellent
reviews by Elam (1976), Huber (1976), Slyter
(1976), Britton and Stock (1987), Huntington
(1988), Elanco (1993), and Harmon (1996). High-
lights are outlined below together with specific hazard
control points where alterations might help prevent or
alleviate acidosis.
Acidosis of Herbivores
Anaerobic microbes in the rumen and cecum
ferment carbohydrates to VFA and lactate. Ruminal
production of more than 55 mol of VFA daily has been
measured in steers fed feedlot diets (Sharp et al.,
1982). Herbivores absorb these organic acids from the
rumen and(or) cecum for metabolism by tissues.
When carbohydrate supply is increased abruptly (i.e.,
following grain engorgement or during adaptation to
high-concentrate diets), the supply of total acid and
the prevalence of lactate in the mixture increase.
Normally, lactate is present in the digestive tract at
only low concentrations, but when carbohydrate sup-
ply is increased abruptly, lactate can accumulate;
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ruminal concentrations occasionally reach 100 mM.
Dunlop and Hammond (1965) coined the term “D-
lactic acidosis” to encompass this metabolic distur-
bance variously described as overeating, acute impac-
tion, grain engorgement, founder, and grain overload.
Today, the term “acidosis” is used collectively for
digestive disturbances of the rumen and intestines.
However, acidosis of ruminants often is separated into
several forms, including acute, chronic (or subclini-
cal), and subliminal types. Animals exhibit acute
acidosis as an overt illness following consumption of
readily fermented carbohydrates in amounts sufficient
to reduce ingesta pH. With chronic acidosis, feed
intake and performance are reduced, but animals may
not appear sick. Clinical diagnosis of acidosis depends
on measurements of ruminal or blood acidity, with
ruminal pH of 5.6 and 5.2 often being used as
benchmarks for chronic and acute acidosis, respec-
tively (Cooper and Klopfenstein, 1996). Britton et al.
(1991) hasused variation in feed intake between days
as an index of subclinical or chronic acidosis based on
the concept that an increased variability from day to
day in feed intake by individual animals is associated
with feeding acidotic diets (Britton and Stock, 1987).
Etiology of Acidosis
The relevant steps involved with acid production in
and output from the rumen are illustrated in Figure 1.
For discussion purposes, reactions have been num-
Starch Concentration and Conversion to Glucose
(Items 1 and 2)
Acidosis is most prevalent following engorgement of
large amounts of starch or other rapidly fermented
carbohydrate. Excessive intake of readily fermented
starch often occurs when animals are first being
adapted to a high-concentrate (feedlot) diet and(or)
when animals are switching from bulk fill to
chemostatic intake regulation. Acidosis also can occur
when grazing animals are fed a large amount of a
starch-rich supplement.
Rate of cleavage of starch to glucose varies with
grain source, grain processing, and starch type.
Certain grain sources (i.e., wheat) and grain varieties
with more readily extracted starch, as preferred by
distilleries, presumably are hydrolyzed to glucose
more rapidly than other sources or varieties. Starch
granules embedded in protein in the “horny en-
dosperm” of milo and corn have less surface exposed
for microbial attack. Heat and pressure treatment
explodes starch granules into sheets of starch that are
fermented very rapidly. Heat and pressure processing,
particle size reduction, and high-moisture storage of
grain increase starch availability and the propensity
for acidosis (Johnson et al., 1974; Britton and Stock,
1987; Reinhardt et al., 1993). Glucose is liberated
from starch granules by specific strains of microbes
that attach to the grain particles. Several methods
have been developed to quantify flake quality (e.g.,
test weight, birefringence, gas production rate during
incubation with yeast or ruminal contents, and
glucose or maltose release during incubation with
amyloglucosidase or amylase). These should reflect
the extent of exposure of starch and(or) its rate of
fermentation. For maximum energetic efficiency, a
high extent of fermentation is desired. But for acidosis
prevention, a slow rate of fermentation is preferred.
Unfortunately, among grain sources and processing
methods, rate and extent of digestion typically are
correlated in a positive direction.
Traditionally, glucose has not been considered to be
an important metabolic intermediate in the rumen
because ruminal concentrations normally are ex-
tremely low. However, in incubations by Slyter (1976)
and engorgement studies by Horn et al. (1979),
glucose concentrations in the rumen often exceeded
160 mg/dL, a concentration greater than that found in
blood. In one of our acidosis studies, ruminal glucose
exceeded 1,400 mg/dL. Glucose is liberated from
starch by amylase, but whether this elevated concen-
tration is simply a result of more rapid hydrolysis or of
a reduction in the rate of glucose utilization by
ruminal microbes is not clear.
Presence of free glucose in the rumen can have at
least three adverse effects. First, ruminal bacteria
that normally are not competitive can grow very
rapidly when provided with high amounts of glucose.
Streptococcus bovis, an inefficient microbe that thrives
only when free glucose is available, was proposed by
Hungate (1968) as the major culprit in lactic acidosis.
However, concentrations of this organism in the
rumen of cattle fed high-concentrate diets are very low
(Leedle, 1993). Other bacteria, those directly involved
with starch fermentation, may be more important
sources of lactate. Indeed, lactate often accumulates
faster in vitro from starch than from glucose. Second,
other opportunistic microbes, including coliforms and
amino acid decarboxylating microbes, may thrive in
the rumen of cattle fed concentrate diets (Slyter and
Rumsey, 1991; Leedle, 1993) and produce or, during
lysis, release endotoxins or amides (e.g., histamine;
Huber, 1976; Brent, 1976) when glucose is readily
available. Third, free glucose released from starch
increases the osmolality of ruminal contents. An
increased osmolality exacerbates accumulation of acid
within the rumen by inhibiting VFA absorption.
Limiting the Supply of Starch and Glucose
(Items 1 and 2)
Two common management practices that help to
prevent acidosis are diluting the diet with roughage or
modulating intake of starch. Dietary roughage
decreases eating rate and meal size. Increasing the
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Figure 1. Key reactions in acidosis of ruminants. Individual numbered reactions are discussed in the text.
concentration of dry roughage increases chewing time
and saliva production. Although an increased extent of
mastication will decrease size of grain particles
entering the rumen and thereby increase its rate of
fermentation, an increased input of buffers from saliva
from a longer chewing time or rumination neutralizes
and dilutes ruminal acids. Starch content of the diet
also can be reduced by substituting starch-extracted
concentrates (e.g., distilling or brewing co-products
and middlings) for cereal grains. Total diet intake
also can be restricted by using a limited maximum
intake feeding scheme as described by Preston(1995).
For experimental purposes, researchers often in-
duce acute acidosis by withholding feed for 12 to 24 h
and then feeding (or ruminally dosing) 150% of the
normal day’s feed allotment. This shows how an
increased meal size can precipitate acidosis and has
led to the suggestion that daily variation in feed
intake among days within an animal will increase the
potential for acidosis. Regularity of intake also has
been implicated as a sign of “subclinical” acidosis.
Fulton et al. (1979) observed that following a bout of
acidosis, feed intake by animals typically is low; they
suggested that a cyclic feed intake pattern reflected
repeated bouts of acidosis. When animals are fed
individually, such fluctuations in intake are detected
readily. However, when 20 or more animals are fed
together, daily fluctuations in intake (or feed deli-
vered) may not be detected unless all animals
experience acidosis at the same time, as can happen
following diet changes or mishaps in processing or
Effects of feed intake regularity on acidosis have
been examined in trials from New Mexico, California,
and Nebraska (Galyean et al., 1993; Zinn, 1994;
Cooper and Klopfenstein, 1996). In these trials, feed
supply for the pen or the animal was purposely altered
or meals were skipped. Although altering the daily
supply of feed has adversely altered feed efficiency
slightly, and performance was reduced in the New
Mexico trial, animal health was not affected drasti-
cally. Stock and Britton (1993), Stock et al. (1995b),
and Cooper and Klopfenstein (1996) indicated that
monensin and monensin-tylosin combinations reduced
daily variation in feed intake by feedlot steers.
Including monensin in the diet has reduced the
incidence of digestive deaths in pens of feedlot cattle
(Parrott, 1993; Vogel, 1996), presumably due to
inhibition of certain lactate-producing bacteria and
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reduced daily variation in feed intake (Cooper and
Klopfenstein, 1996).
Meal frequency may be as important as total feed
intake as a cause of acidosis. For example, cattle with
implants typically have greater feed intakes. Weather
changes and processing cattle to provide implants or
inoculations often disrupt feeding patterns and may
result in overconsumption and acidosis. Proper timing
of processing so that cattle are not deprived of feed
may be useful; intake restriction following working or
weather changes also may be beneficial. Estrogenic
implants have been shown to increase meal frequency,
which in turn may decrease the potential for acidosis.
Effects of meal frequency also may explain why more
timid animals and certain breeds experience acidosis
more frequently. But if meal frequency is important,
the incidence of acidosis would be expected to be
higher when cattle are limit- or program-fed. To date,
acidosis incidence has not been reported to be
increased by limit feeding, perhaps because the total
quantity of feed supplied is not excessive. However,
when excessive amounts of feed are provided, either
mistakenly or during the switch from limit feeding to
free-choice intake, acidosis might be expected.
The roles of ruminal protozoa in acidosis are not
clear. By engulfing starch particles and storing
glucose as polysaccharide, protozoa delay starch fer-
mentation by bacteria, help to retard acid production,
and stabilize ruminal fermentation (Slyter, 1976;
Nagaraja et al., 1990). In view of the large amounts of
starch consumed by ruminants, the quantitative
significance of starch consumption by protozoa seems
questionable. However, the population of ruminal
bacteria normally decreases when protozoa are
present; this decrease also could delay fermentation.
Protozoal numbers in the rumen typically decline
when high-concentrate diets are fed, probably because
long dietary fiber provides a fibrous mat in the rumen
to which protozoa attach and remain long enough to
replicate. Free fatty acids and detergents reduce
protozoal numbers, as well, and a low pH may cause
defaunation. However, in addition to stabilizing nor-
mal fermentation, protozoal presence in the rumen
can be deleterious. Because they have much higher
amylase activity per unit of protein than bacteria
(Mendoza and Britton, 1991), protozoa, when ruptur-
ing due to changes in acid or osmolality associated
with acidosis, release large amounts of amylase that
in turn accelerates glucose production from starch and
increases the likelihood of acidosis.
Protozoal stimulants or inhibitors, as indicated in
Figure 1, may have an impact on propensity and
seriousness of acidosis. Because protozoal numbers are
reduced by high-concentrate diets and removed by
unsaturated fatty acids, high concentrations of dietary
fat often lead to ruminal instability. Huffman et al.
(1992) suggested that by coating the grain and
reducing its rate of fermentation, supplemental fat
should reduce the incidence of acidosis. However, in
vivo challenge studies with corn and wheat detected
no effect of fat level on time that pH fell below 6.0,
suggesting that fat was ineffective in preventing
subacute acidosis (Krehbiel et al., 1995b).
Including lactobacillus cultures in the diet may
prolong ruminal retention of protozoa (Van Koevering
et al., 1994), attenuate fermentation and production
of ruminal lactate, and help maintain a higher
ruminal pH (Cooper and Klopfenstein, 1996). Wil-
liams et al. (1991) observed that the mean and peak
L-lactate concentration in ruminal fluid of steers fed a
barley-hay diet was lower and ruminal pH was higher
when the diet was supplemented with a yeast culture.
Because yeasts fail to compete and grow in the rumen,
frequent dosing is necessary to maintain activity. In
engorgement studies, a yeast culture did not alter the
fermentation pattern (Godfrey et al., 1992), but
specific yeast cultures, through stimulating growth of
lactate utilizing bacterial strains in the rumen
(Dawson, 1995), may help moderate ruminal pH and
avoid acidosis.
Glycolysis (Reaction 3)
Anaerobic microbes typically thrive when free
glucose is available. Yet, the fact that free glucose
concentrations in the rumen are high during acidosis
indicates that glycolysis may be partially blocked. In
our ruminal fluid incubation studies and those of
others (A. Z. Leedle, personal communication), less
than half of the glucose incubated with ruminal
contents (1% wt/vol) disappeared within 6 h; this
supports the concept that free glucose is not being
catabolized readily for reasons yet unknown.
Control of Glycolysis (Reaction 3)
Rate of glycolysis can be limited by inhibiting
hexokinase, phosphofructokinase (both of which use
ATP), and pyruvate kinase (that yields ATP); lack of
oxidized NAD (that is regenerated with lactate
production) also can limit glycolysis. Certain meta-
bolic inhibitors, including iodoacetate, fluoride, and
metabisulfite, by retarding glycolysis, have been
proposed to reduce ruminal acidosis.
Volatile Fatty Acid Production and Lactate
Production and Utilization (Reactions 4 and 5)
Bacteria in the rumen often are classified as
“lactate producers” or “lactate users.” Balance between
these two groups determines whether lactate accumu-
lates. End products of bacterial strains may change
depending on substrate availability and culture condi-
tions (Russell and Hino, 1985). Most lactate-using
microbes are sensitive to low pH, whereas most lactate
producers are not. Under anaerobic conditions, pyru-
vate is converted to lactate to regenerate the NAD
used in glycolysis. Under “normal” conditions, lactate
does not accumulate in the rumen at concentrations
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above 5 mM. In contrast, ruminal concentrations
exceeding 40 mM are indicative of severe acidosis.
Ruminal and silage microbes produce two forms of
lactate, the D+ and L form. The L form, identical to
that produced from glucose by exercising muscle, can
be readily metabolized by liver and heart tissue. In
contrast, D+ lactate, typically 30 to 38% of the total
lactate found in the rumen, is not produced by
mammalian tissues. Accumulation of free lactate in
silage serves to halt fermentation and stabilize the
mass. In addition to D-lactate and VFA being involved
with acidosis, other microbial products including
ethanol, methanol, histamine, tyramine, and endotox-
ins often are detectable during acidosis and can exert
systemic effects (Koers et al., 1976; Slyter, 1976).
Conversion of pyruvate to VFA involves multiple
steps and generates approximately half the ATP for
microbial growth in the rumen; the other half is
derived from conversion of glucose to pyruvate.
Normally, VFA do not accumulate at sufficient concen-
trations in the rumen to reduce pH drastically.
However, when the rate of acid production exceeds the
rate of acid absorption, due either to rapid production,
inhibited absorption, or reduced dilution, VFA ac-
cumulate to higher concentrations. In some studies,
ruminal pH falls below 5.0 even without lactate being
present. This has led to the suggestion that total acid
load, not lactate alone, is responsible for acidosis
(Britton and Stock, 1987), particularly with chronic
Control of Lactate Production and Utilization
(Reactions 4 and 5)
Streptococcus bovis and lactobacilli, which produce
lactate, the coliforms, which seem responsible for
anaphylactic shock and sudden death, and the amino
acid degrading microbes associated with tyramine and
histamine production all may contribute to ruminal
acidosis; these organisms might be controlled with
antibiotics or bacteriophages. Inoculation with lactate-
using microbes that can tolerate a low pH also should
be useful for preventing acid accumulation. Repeated
inoculation with Megasphaera elsdenii (Kung and
Hession, 1995), Lactobacillus acidophilus (in
metabolism trials, e.g., Huffman et al, 1993; Van
Koevering et al., 1994; but not feeding trials, e.g.,
Klopfenstein et al., 1995; Stock et al., 1995a), and the
three species present in Activated Rumen Microbes
(ARM) that Grace, Inc. tested extensively may
enhance lactate utilization. Unfortunately, survival in
the face of vigorous competition from other microbial
species complicates long-term alteration of the rumi-
nal microflora. Yet, individual animals differ and may
remain consistently different in ruminal metabolism.
During a 6-mo ad libitum feeding period, lactate
production by ruminal contents during incubation
with cornstarch ranked 10 steers similarly, suggesting
that the mixture of microbial species within an animal
remains stable even though some animals remained
more prone to acidosis (F. N. Owens, unpublished
To decrease lactate concentrations, stimulation of
microbes that use lactate (e.g., Selenomonas ruminan-
tium) seems beneficial. Dosing cultures or animals
with certain dicarboxylic acids, particularly fumarate
and malate, has decreased lactate production and
increased pH in vitro and following grain engorge-
ment, perhaps through enhanced lactate utilization by
S. ruminantium (Martin and Streeter, 1995). Feasi-
bility of malate supplementation during diet adapta-
tion to increase lactate utilization needs further
testing. An interesting alternative to microbial control
is to precondition microbes to handle lactate, either by
including lactate in the diet or feeding ensiled feeds
that contain lactate. Adding lactate to the adaptation
diet for sheep increased the rate of disappearance of
lactate in vitro (Huntington and Britton, 1978),
suggesting that feeding diets that contain lactate
before an acidotic challenge may be beneficial.
Feeding ionophores has reduced lactate production
in vitro and in vivo (Newbold and Wallace, 1988;
Bauer et al., 1992; Syntex, 1994); effects may be
either through inhibition of lactate-producing bacteria
or reduced meal size. For inhibiting lactobacilli,
Tetronasin seems more potent than monensin. Selec-
tive inhibition of S. bovis by thiopeptin indicates that
controlling the microbial population can prevent
acidosis. When cattle were fed virginiamycin they
could be switched uneventfully from a forage diet to a
100% wheat diet within 24 h (Zorrilla-Rios et al.,
1991). Virginiamycin may protect animals from rumi-
nal and postruminal acidosis (Godfrey et al., 1992) by
inhibiting lactate-producing bacteria (Rogers et al.,
In addition to lactate, substances toxic to ruminal
microbes are produced by certain strains of ruminal
bacteria grown with excess carbohydrate but insuffi-
cient nitrogen (Russell, 1993). Under “glucose toxic-
ity” conditions and accumulation of methylglyoxal,
viability of bacteria declines drastically (Russell,
unpublished data). With lysis of microbial cells,
endotoxins also may be released. Presence of such
antimicrobial compounds might readily explain the
stagnancy of ruminal contents immediately following
a bout of acidosis. Antibacterial activity of ruminal
fluid during acidosis deserves further research atten-
tion. Toxicants might be neutralized through inocula-
tion with toxin-catabolizing or toxin-tolerant strains of
microbes, and conditions conducive to toxin produc-
tion, such as a deficiency of specific nitrogenous
compounds, might be corrected by diet modification.
Depression of Ruminal pH (Reaction 6)
Ruminal pH represents the consortium of relative
concentrations of bases, acids, and buffers. The
primary ruminal base is ammonia. The two primary
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Figure 2. Relative contributions of various organic compounds to ruminal acidity and osmolality under normal or
acidotic conditions. Heights of bars indicate relative contributions to hydrogen ion and osmolality from (bottom to
top) butyrate, propionate, acetate, glucose, D-lactate, and L-lactate.
buffers under neutral pH conditions are bicarbonate
and phosphate. In addition, VFA and lactate act as
buffers when pH falls below 5, as discussed by
Counotte et al. (1979). The relative contributions of
various organic compounds to ruminal acidity and to
ruminal osmolality under normal and acidotic condi-
tions are presented in Figure 2 based on ruminal
concentrations and calculated extent of ionization
based on data published by Fulton et al. (1979)
combined with glucose measurements from Horn et al.
(1979). As indicated in Figure 2, when pH decreases
to 5.0 during acidosis, ionization of acids increases
slightly, but the added lactate is primarily responsible
for the increased hydrogen ion concentration. Lactate
depresses pH more drastically than similar amounts
of other ruminal acids because its pK (the pH point of
maximum buffering) is considerably lower (3.8 vs
4.8). As shown in Figure 2, with an acidotic pH,
osmotic pressure is increased by greater ionization of
acids and presence of free glucose. Compared with
normal concentrations, the change during acidosis is
much greater in osmolality than in the hydrogen ion
Absorption from the rumen normally prevents acid
accumulation; however, high osmolality of ruminal
contents reduces the rate of acid absorption (Tabaru
et al., 1990). This exacerbates acidity and osmolality.
Furthermore, acidity enhances activity of lactate
dehydrogenase, increasing conversion of pyruvate to
lactate and complicating recovery from acidosis. Com-
bined with the fact that a low pH enhances activity of
pyruvate hydrogenase and favors pyruvate conversion
to lactate (Russell and Hino, 1985), a severe drop in
ruminal pH is difficult to reverse.
Control of Ruminal pH (Reaction 6)
Increasing ruminal input of bases or buffers (e.g.,
bicarbonate from the diet or from saliva) or feeds that
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yield bases or buffers (e.g., ammonia from degraded
protein or nonprotein N) will help prevent a depres-
sion in ruminal pH. Absorption of VFA, by removing
un-ionized acid and by the exchange of ionized VFA
for bicarbonate during the absorption process
(Stevens, 1970), aids in maintaining pH near neutral-
ity. Consequently, a reduced rate of VFA absorption
causes ruminal pH to drop for two reasons: ruminal
VFA accumulate and bicarbonate input from the blood
stream is decreased. Approximately half the bicar-
bonate entering the rumen comes from saliva, during
eating and rumination; the other half enters the
rumen in exchange for ionized acids being absorbed.
In addition, carbon dioxide produced during fermenta-
tion typically saturates ruminal fluid and exchanges
with the bicarbonate pool of the rumen. With concen-
trate diets and reduced input of saliva, a higher
proportion of bicarbonate must be derived from the
blood. This reduces the base excess of blood; if
inadequately compensated by respiratory and renal
mechanism, this causes metabolic acidosis.
Ruminal Osmolality (Reaction 7)
Osmotic pressure pulls or pushes water through
membranes depending on relative concentrations of
dissolved materials. Ruminal osmolality normally
ranges from 240 to 265 mOsm/L with roughage diets
and 280 to 300 mOsm/L with concentrate diets (Garza
et al., 1989). Minerals, VFA, lactate, and glucose are
the primary solutes in ruminal fluid. In blood,
dissolved protein contributes substantially to osmotic
pressure that normally ranges from 285 to 310 mOsm.
With the acidotic conditions of engorgement studies,
we have measured ruminal osmolality as high as 515
mOsm. When ruminal osmolality is markedly greater
than blood osmolality, water from blood is drawn
rapidly inward through the rumen wall. Rapid influx
to neutralize osmotic pressure swells the ruminal
papillae and can pull patches of the ruminal
epithelium into the rumen by stripping the internal
surface layers of the rumen wall from the underlying
layers, as illustrated vividly in histological studies by
Eadie and Mann (1970). Damage to the wall of the
rumen or small intestine due to high osmotic pressure,
detected later as sites of abscesses, is a result of this
rapid influx of water. When sepsis occurs, ruminal
microbes responsible for liver abscesses freely enter
the blood stream. Subsequently, repaired tissues of
the digestive tract will be thickened (hyperkeratosis
or parakeratosis); this may inhibit rate of VFA
absorption for months or years after the damage has
occurred (Krehbiel et al., 1995a). Passage of VFA
postruminally for absorption is possible, but abomasal
presence of VFA hinders acidification and protein and
mineral digestion; this may reduce postruminal starch
digestion. Consequently, a single bout of non-fatal
acidosis may have prolonged effects; this may explain
why subsequent performance is suboptimal for many
of the animals denoted as “realizers” in feedlots.
An elevation in osmotic pressure in the rumen is
sensed by the wall of the reticulorumen to inhibit feed
intake (Carter and Grovum, 1990). In addition,
osmotic pressures above 350 mOsm inhibit bacterial
digestion of fiber and starch, causing ruminal contents
to become stagnant. High osmolality (> 300 mOsm)
combined with distention of the abomasum, through
inhibition of outflow, complicates removal of fluid and
acid from the rumen (Scott, 1975). During a
22-d trial adapting three heifers to a high-concentrate
diet, we observed that ruminal osmolality averaged
339 ± 35 mOsmol and peaked over 420 mOsm on
several days. Although ruminal hypertonicity usually
but not always reduces the frequency of ruminal
contractions (Carter and Grovum, 1990), inhibited
gut motility or hypertonicity at the abomasum may
halt flow and exacerbate ruminal acidification; altered
motility or tonicity also may cause feed intake to
fluctuate with chronic acidosis.
Control of Osmolality (Reaction 7)
High osmolality from elevated concentrations of
glucose and acids cannot be readily prevented.
However, other contributors to osmotic pressure, such
as ammonia and soluble minerals (i.e., sodium,
potassium, chloride) from the diet or water can be
altered. Salt at 5% of the diet increased ruminal
osmolality to 344 mOsm. Reducing intake of minerals
and salt might reduce ruminal osmolality slightly.
Increasing input of saliva, at approximately 255
mOsm, also reduces ruminal osmotic pressure. High
moisture diets or increasing intake of drinking water
probably do not reduce ruminal osmolality because
fermented diets often have high osmolality, and
drinking water intake may partially flush past the
rumen (Garza and Owens, 1989). Because high
intakes of salt or minerals in feed can exacerbate the
situation, anorexia during acidosis should be benefi-
Acid Absorption (Reaction 8)
Lactate and VFA are absorbed passively through
the rumen and intestinal epithelium. Rate of absorp-
tion is greater when concentrations are high, pH is
low, and osmolality is normal (Tabaru et al., 1990).
The lower the pH, the higher the percentage of each
organic acid in the non-dissociated (acid) form and
the greater the absorption rate. During absorption,
butyrate is partly metabolized as an energy source for
the rumen wall and glucose is partly converted to D-
lactate. Lactate also is produced in and absorbed from
the intestines (Godfrey et al., 1992), so total lactate
load for the liver may greatly exceed the lactate
absorption from the rumen.
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Control of Acid Absorption (Reaction 8)
Whether it is desirable to increase acid absorption
from the rumen to avoid ruminal acid overload and
osmolality or to decrease absorption and temporarily
avoid systemic acidosis depends on the potential
severity of the ruminal or systemic damage. On a
chronic basis, acid absorption rate is reduced most
easily by increasing ruminal pH. Higher bicarbonate
input from the diet or saliva will help increase
ruminal pH and an increased pH stimulates utiliza-
tion of lactate in the rumen. Higher ruminal ammonia
concentrations from higher dietary protein or urea
concentrations often are associated with a higher
ruminal pH and ruminal buffering capacity (Haaland
et al., 1982) even though the ammonia released could
neutralize only 10 to 15% of VFA produced. Increasing
the cation:anion balance also may be useful to
increase ruminal pH. However, in research with acute
acidosis induced by a grain overload, including various
buffers with the diet has not produced a consistent
benefit. This probably relates to the long time lag (6
to 10 h) between a meal and minimum ruminal pH.
When combined with outflow of soluble materials from
the rumen, buffers are diluted too much to have any
residual effect. Protein or nonprotein N sources that
release ammonia gradually may be beneficial, cer-
tainly more beneficial than urea or bypass protein
sources. Enhanced saliva flow, achieved through
enhancing chewing and rumination time by including
long roughage in the diet or by addition of specific
chemicals to the diet (e.g., slaframine and pilocar-
pine) should reduce the incidence of acidosis.
Blood pH (Reaction 9)
Blood acidosis, which is similar in ruminants and
nonruminants, can result from either excessive
production or insufficient removal of acid. With
respiratory inadequacy, as can occur during respira-
tory disease, carbon dioxide accumulates in blood; this
depresses blood pH unless renal retention of bicar-
bonate compensates sufficiently. In contrast, with
metabolic abnormalities, excess acid production or
absorption decreases pH and bicarbonate in body
fluids due to accumulation of acids or loss of fixed base
from the body (as in diarrhea or renal disease). In
nonruminants, lactic acidosis is a special type of
metabolic acidosis resulting from decreased tissue
perfusion, drug reaction, or inhibition of pyruvate
conversion to acetyl coenzyme A that can occur in
deficiencies of specific cofactors (i.e., thiamin or lipoic
acid). With arsenite or mercury binding of sulfhydryl
groups of lipoic acid, pyruvate and lactate accumulate.
Nutritionally deprived alcoholics that are thiamin-
deficient when administered glucose rapidly accumu-
late pyruvate, and the lactacidemia that results
frequently is lethal. In humans, acidosis can occur
with high-protein diets with inhibited metabolism of
either propionic acid (from a B
deficiency) or
isovaleric acid (impaired isovaleryl dehydrogenase)
as described by Murray et al. (1993).
Blood pH depends on the relative concentrations of
bases, acids, and buffers in solution. Low blood
concentrations make ammonia irrelevant to blood pH,
except that the liver by urea synthesis may alter acid-
base status of the animal. Phosphate plays a minor
role due to its relatively low and constant concentra-
tion. This leaves bicarbonate as the primary blood
buffer (Counotte et al., 1979). A base-excess normally
is present in blood, but an acid load can decrease this
base-excess and can overcome the buffering capacity of
bicarbonate. Acids of concern include those absorbed
from the digestive tract plus L-lactate produced by
muscular activity. Acid absorption or production is of
concern only at the site of absorption or when acids
accumulate (i.e., when rate of entry exceeds the rate
of metabolism). Of the VFA, only acetate normally
reaches the peripheral blood stream; much of the
butyrate is converted to beta-hydroxybutyrate during
absorption through the rumen wall and all of the
propionate is converted to glucose by the liver.
Presumably, VFA should not accumulate in blood
plasma at sufficient concentrations to depress blood
pH, but exactly how blood VFA concentrations change
under acidotic conditions has not been determined.
However, metabolism of the ruminal wall and the
liver may be compromised during acidosis. Further
complicating the situation, the liver is faced with L-
lactate from tissue metabolism plus the D- and L-
lactate absorbed from the digestive tract. Indeed,
when ruminal glucose concentrations are high, as seen
with acidosis, glucose being absorbed is partially
converted to L-lactate by the digestive tract (Seal and
Parker, 1994); if excessive, capacity of the liver to
catabolize lactate may be overloaded (Naylor et al.,
1984). Individual animals with a larger (wheat-
pasture cattle) or more adapted liver have greater
capacity for metabolizing lactate and thereby may be
less likely to experience blood acidosis.
Blood usually is saturated with bicarbonate. Blood
acid-base balance is regulated by the respiratory
system (blowing off carbon dioxide), muscular activity
(lactate production by muscles), and kidney function
(excretion of acid or ammonium salts), as described
by Harmon (1996). Balance of absorbed ions can alter
acid-base status. Normally determined by measuring
concentrations in feed and designated as the dietary
cation-anion balance ( DCAB), cations (sodium,
potassium, and perhaps ammonia for ruminants)
increase the base load, whereas anions (chloride, and
probably sulfate for ruminants) increase the acid load.
Cattle fed cereal grain diets typically are acidotic and
secrete acid urine partially neutralized by ammonia
and phosphorus. Infused acid increases excretion of
ammonium ions but not phosphorus, indicating that
phosphorus excretion is inconsequential to acidosis
and may reflect decreased recycling via saliva to the
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rumen. An increased dietary electrolyte balance has
been found to increase ruminal pH of growing steers
and to linearly or quadratically increase arterial blood
pH (Ross et al., 1994a,b).
Control of Blood pH (Reaction 9)
Increasing the base excess, through altering the
cation-anion balance of the diet, should aid in
preventing acidosis. Substitution of buffers (e.g.,
carbonates and bicarbonates) for other dietary ions
often proves beneficial, probably more from the added
cation than from carbonate or bicarbonate that are
lost as carbon dioxide from the rumen, especially when
pH is low. This reduces the impact of added buffer on
blood pH or base excess. In contrast, higher levels of
urea or ruminally degraded protein, through
metabolism by the liver, may enhance base status. To
avoid elevating ruminal osmolality, cations should be
readily absorbed (Na, K) rather than maintained in
the rumen (Ca, Mg) in order to increase blood base
status although excesses may increase blood osmolal-
ity and reduce feed intake. Manipulation of DCAB
may be helpful for increasing feed intake and prevent-
ing blood acidosis (Ross et al., 1994a,b; Block, 1994).
Because ammonium salts are excreted to counter-
balance an acid load, additional sources of ammonia
(i.e., degraded protein or NPN) may be needed and
beneficial in controlling chronic acidosis. Urinary
ammonia, which is derived from glutamine, increases
the hepatic demand for ammonia and energy for
glutamine synthesis.
Blood Osmolality (Reaction 10)
Blood osmolality increases during acidosis for two
reasons. First, high ruminal osmotic pressure pulls
fluid from plasma into the rumen; this concentrates
blood components, increasing both blood osmolality,
packed cell volume, and drinking of water, symptoms
typical of dehydration. Second, when rates of absorp-
tion of ruminal acids or glucose exceed their rates of
metabolism or excretion, these compounds can ac-
cumulate in blood and directly increase osmolality.
Hoof damage and laminitis typical of acidosis have
been attributed to elevated histamine concentrations
and blood vessel damage due to uncontrolled eleva-
tions in blood pressure inside the hoof (Vermunt and
Greenough, 1994). Whether blood osmolarity plays a
role in laminitis is not clear. Dark lines around the
hoof and rough surface bands readily reveal an
historical record of the animal’s nutritional status,
stress, and acidosis.
Increased osmolality has numerous physiological
effects. Hypertonicity is detected at several sites. It is
sensed by osmoreceptors in the rumen to inhibit feed
intake, in the portal system or liver to inhibit
rumination, and in the brain to inhibit salivation
(Carter and Grovum, 1990). The short-term feed
intake depressions noted with “subclinical” acidosis
may reflect fluctuating blood osmolality. In contrast,
with clinical or acute acidosis, the decrease in blood
pH is a life-threatening situation. Hence, acute and
chronic acidosis, although working from a similar base
of ruminal acidity, probably should be considered as
separate disorders.
Control of Blood Osmolality (Reaction 10)
Increased salivation, achieved through higher in-
takes of coarse particles from roughage or whole corn,
and higher intake of water should serve to buffer and
dilute ruminal contents to reduce ruminal osmolality.
Reduced ruminal osmolality will avoid the influx of
fluid from blood that causes an elevation in blood
osmolality. Similarly, supply of cofactors involved with
VFA metabolism (B
, thiamin, and lipoic acid) must
be adequate to prevent accumulation of these acids.
Acid Metabolism and Excretion
(Reactions 11 and 12)
Metabolism of VFA to glucose for storage or to
carbon dioxide to yield energy typically proceeds
rapidly so that blood concentrations remain low.
Traditionally, acidosis was attributed strictly to lac-
tate because lactate is 10 times stronger an acid than
VFA. Huber (1976) reviewing earlier studies indi-
cated that D-lactate was not metabolized by tissues as
rapidly or extensively as L-lactate; he suggested that
it was removed from blood only by excretion through
the kidney. In contrast, more recent studies indicate
that D-lactate is metabolized by ruminant tissues
(Giesecke and Stangassinger, 1980; Harmon et al.,
1983), although rate of metabolism under acidotic
conditions have not yet been measured. Presence of
butyrate reduces conversion of L-lactate to glucose by
calf hepatocytes (Reynolds et al., 1992), so interac-
tions among absorbed acids may alter rate of
Enhancing Acid Metabolism and Excretion
(Reactions 11 and 12)
Kidney clearance of fluid can be increased by
elevating dietary concentrations of salt or digestible
protein. Although VFA should be resorbed by the
kidney, D-lactate is partially excreted. Deficiencies of
cofactors and adaptation to metabolize VFA and
lactate may increase the maximum rate of metabolism
of these acid end-products. Specific cofactors of in-
terest include vitamin B
, lipoic acid, and thiamin.
The latter could explain why polioencephalomalacia
occasionally is linked to acidosis. In contrast, Brent
(1976) indicated that ruminal thiaminase developed
after acidosis and suggested that bacterial thiamin
destruction was enhanced by acidosis. Concentrations
of VFA and lactate in plasma of animals dying from
acidosis need to be measured to determine whether
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Table 1. Subclinical acidosis checklist, scale of risk, and apparent impact under various conditions
Cation-anion balance.
Danger scale Impact
Factor Low High Lab In vivo Feedlot
Cattle disposition Tame Flighty ? ? Moderate
Meal size Small Huge Strong Strong Strong
Feed access Limited Unlimited Strong Strong Limited
Diet composition
Concentrate level 0% 100% Strong Strong Strong
Grain Corn, Milo Wheat Strong Strong Strong
Grain processing Whole Steam-flaked Strong Strong Strong
Feed type Unfermented Fermented Weak ? ?
Acid Basic Weak ? ?
Ionophores Present Absent Strong Strong Strong
Bicarbonate Present None Weak Weak Weak
Fat Up to 8% None Weak Negative None
Probiotics Lactobacilli None Moderate Some ?
Protozoal stimulants Present Absent Strong Strong ?
Protein level High Low Weak Weak ?
Thiamin Supplemented None Weak Weak ?
Virginiamycin Present Absent Strong Strong Moderate
Malate/Fumarate Present Absent Strong Moderate Weak
rates of acid metabolism are limited. Naylor et al.
(1984) indicated that hepatic metabolism of lactate
may be limited. Only with absorption or liver malfunc-
tion would one expect butyrate or propionate to
accumulate in peripheral blood. Relative concentra-
tions of acetate and D and L lactate could reveal
whether catabolic rates are being exceeded.
Factors that might be modified to reduce the
incidence of subclinical and clinical acidosis are listed
in Table 1 together with a relative danger scaling
concerning the expected effect on the incidence of
acidosis. Effectiveness of modifying certain factors has
been studied only in ruminal fluid incubation studies,
whereas other factors have been tested with cannu-
lated animals or have been observed in feedlot;
relative degrees of testing and effectiveness under
these three scenarios are estimated. Inhibiting lac-
tate-producing microbes and enhancing activity of
lactate-using microbes and new procedures in feed
management (limit or program feeding) may help
reduce the incidence of acute and subacute acidosis.
Acute and chronic acidosis continues to plague
feedlot ruminants. Steps involved with accumulation
of ruminal acids and elevated osmolality of ruminal
contents and blood are outlined and control procedures
are proposed. Promising control measures include
specific feed additives that inhibit the lactate-produc-
ing bacterial strains, that stimulate activity of lactate-
using bacteria or starch-engulfing ruminal protozoa,
and that reduce meal size. Ruminal inoculation with
microbial strains capable of preventing glucose or
lactate accumulation or of metabolizing lactate at a
low pH may help. Continued research concerning
grain processing, dietary cation-anion balance, nar-
row-spectrum antibiotics, glucose- or lactate-utilizing
microbes, salivary flow stimulants, and feeding
management should yield new methods for reducing
the incidence of acute and chronic acidosis.
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... Acidosis results when cattle consume fermentable carbohydrates in sufficient amounts to cause an accumulation of organic acids in the rumen, with a simultaneous reduction in ruminal pH (Nagaraja and Lechtenberg, 2007). Ruminal pH below 5.6 is considered an indicator of subacute acidosis, while a pH lesser or equal to 5.2 indicates acute ruminal acidosis (Owens et al., 1998;Bevans et al., 2005). ...
... Ruminal pH was measured every 3 h on d 14, 21, 28, and 35, and data were summarized as average pH, time (min/d), and area (time × pH) that pH was equal or below 5.6 and 5.2 within each 24-h period and during the entire 21-d transition period. Time with rumen pH below 5.6 and 5.2 was calculated and summarized because they may indicate subacute (Owens et al., 1998;Nagaraja and Titgemeyer, 2010) and acute (Owens et al., 1998;Penner et al., 2007) ruminal acidosis, respectively. ...
... Ruminal pH was measured every 3 h on d 14, 21, 28, and 35, and data were summarized as average pH, time (min/d), and area (time × pH) that pH was equal or below 5.6 and 5.2 within each 24-h period and during the entire 21-d transition period. Time with rumen pH below 5.6 and 5.2 was calculated and summarized because they may indicate subacute (Owens et al., 1998;Nagaraja and Titgemeyer, 2010) and acute (Owens et al., 1998;Penner et al., 2007) ruminal acidosis, respectively. ...
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This study investigated the effects of feeding an avian-derived polyclonal antibody preparation (PAP; CAMAS, Inc.) against Streptococcus bovis, Fusobacterium necrophorum, and lipopolysaccharides (40%, 35%, and 25% of the preparation, respectively) on ruminal fermentation [pH, ammonia-N (NH 3-N), lactate, and volatile fatty acids (VFA)] of beef steers during a 21-d step-up diet adaptation. Eight ruminally cannulated Angus crossbred beef steers (658 ± 79 kg of body weight) were assigned in a crossover design to be transitioned from a diet containing ad lib-itum bermudagrass hay [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] plus 0.45 kg/d (as fed) of molasses with 0 (CON) or 3 g of PAP (PAP) to a high-grain diet. Transition consisted of three 7-d steps of increased inclusion of cracked corn (35%, 60%, and 82% of the diet DM for STEP1, STEP2, and STEP3, respectively). On each transition day and 7 d after STEP3 (STEP3-7d), ruminal fluid samples were obtained every 3 h for 24 h. Feeding 3 g of PAP daily increased (P < 0.01) average ruminal pH during STEP3 compared with CON steers (5.6 vs. 5.4 ± 0.05, respectively). During STEP1, NH 3-N concentration was greater (P < 0.01; 9.4 vs. 6.8 ± 0.74 mM, respectively), and time (min/d) and area (time × pH) of ruminal pH below or equal to 5.2 was lesser (P ≤ 0.03) for steers consuming PAP compared with steers assigned to CON treatment (33.4 vs. 73.3 ± 21.7 min/d and 187.4 vs. 406.3 ± 119.7 min × pH/d, respectively). Steers consuming PAP had greater acetate:propionate ratio at 0, 3, and 6 h relative to diet change compared with CON (2.42, 2.35, 2.29 vs. 1.66, 1.79, and 1.72 ± 0.17, respectively), whereas butyrate molar proportions increased (P = 0.02; 17.1 vs. 11 ± 1.58 mol/100 mol for CON and PAP, respectively) when PAP was not fed at STEP2. Total ruminal lactate concentrations were not affected by PAP feeding (P > 0.11). In conclusion, feeding 3 g/d of polyclonal antibody preparation against S. bovis, F. necrophorum, and lipopolysaccharides was effective in increasing ruminal pH, A:P ratio, and NH 3-N concentrations, possibly attenuating the risks of ruminal acidosis in steers during the step-up transition from forage to high-grain diets. LAY SUMMARY Feedlot cattle are fed high-grain diets that require a transition period with gradual increasing amounts of grain. Those diets are associated with changes in microbial populations of the gastrointestinal tract in favor of bacteria that can contribute to cause metabolic disorders by reducing ru-minal pH. Feed additives are compounds added to the diet of feedlot cattle to improve animal health and performance by minimizing the effects of microbial changes. An alternative product, polyclonal antibody preparations (PAP), have emerged as a possible tool to ameliorate the effects of high-grain diets on cattle health and performance. Therefore, this research investigated the effects of PAP during diet transition to a high-grain in beef cattle. It was concluded that feeding PAP contributed to increase ruminal pH, which could result in reduced risks of metabolic diseases.
... Wheat can be used as an alternative grain in feedlot diets; however, its rapid rate of fermentation in the rumen increases the risk of acidosis (Kreikemeier et al., 1990;Bock et al., 1991). Cattle-fed high-grain diets are at risk of digestive disorders, which can be offset by increased dietary roughage (Wise et al., 1968;Owens et al., 1998;Gentry et al., 2016), or through other management strategies including strict bunk management. Increased roughage inclusion increases ruminal pH, minimizing the risk of digestive upset (Weiss et al., 2017). ...
... It is also possible that the differences in results may be explained by inclusion of distillers grains co-products as not all research discussed here included distillers grains with solubles, or perhaps more simply that the differences in NDF and ADF concentration between treatments were small enough to not allow for determination of effects within our experiment. Ruminal pH increased linearly (P < 0.01; Table 7) from 6.0 to 6.2 ± 0.07 with increasing roughage In feedlot diets, increasing roughage inclusion, among other factors can assist in maintaining ruminal pH above 5.6 and decrease acidosis (Owens et al., 1998). As anticipated, our data indicated that ruminal pH increased with greater roughage inclusion. ...
... It was expected that ruminal pH would increase as dietary roughage increased from 10% to 16%. Increasing ruminal pH with an increase in roughage can potentially be explained by increased chewing time increasing saliva that carries buffers to the rumen (Owens et al., 1998;Weiss et al., 2017). Changes in ruminal pH due to Table 4. Impacts of rate of roughage inclusion on organic matter intake, flow, and digestion in steers fed wheat-based feedlot diets 1 roughage inclusion at rates below 10% when including wheat would likely be much different than those observed in the current experiment. ...
Two experiments were conducted to evaluate the inclusion rate roughage in wheat-based diets containing modified distillers grains with solubles (MDGS) on feedlot performance (Feedlot Experiment), as well as digestibility, ruminal pH, and ruminal fermentation characteristics (Digestibility Experiment). The feedlot experiment utilized 72 Angus steers (392 ± 46.3 kg initial body weight; BW) which were randomly assigned to 1 of 12 pens, 3 pens per treatment, to evaluate feedlot performance and carcass characteristics. Dietary treatments were 1) control; 10% roughage, 2) 12% roughage, 3) 14% roughage, and 4) 16% roughage. The digestibility experiment used 4 ruminally and duodenally cannulated steers (393 ± 33.0 kg) in a 4 × 4 Latin Square with either 10%, 12%, 14%, or 16% roughage as in the feedlot experiment. However, dietary roughage source was different between these two experiments and included a combination of grass hay and wheat straw (Feedlot Experiment), and corn silage (Digestibility Experiment). All data were analyzed with the Mixed Procedures of SAS. Feed intake was recorded, with duodenal and fecal output calculated using chromic oxide. Ruminal pH and fermentation were assessed. Growth performance and most carcass characteristics were not affected by increasing roughage (P ≥ 0.11). Marbling tended to decrease linearly (P = 0.10) with increasing roughage inclusion. Increasing dietary roughage content had no effect on organic matter intake (P = 0.60) in the digestibility experiment. Intake, duodenal flow, and digestibility of NDF and ADF were not affected by treatment (P ≥ 0.16). Ruminal pH increased linearly (P < 0.01) as rate of roughage inclusion increased. Ruminal concentrations of acetate and butyrate increased, and propionate decreased in a linear fashion (P < 0.01) thereby increasing (P < 0.01) acetate and butyrate to propionate ratio with increasing dietary roughage. Our data indicate that increasing roughage inclusion in wheat-based diets including 30% MDGS increased ruminal pH and shifted ruminal fermentation patterns. Additionally, increasing roughage inclusion did not affect feedlot performance in steers fed wheat at 36 to 42% of dietary DM in combination with 30% MDGS.
... On the other hand, because this system allows a precise control of feed intake and ruminal dilution rates (both liquid and solid flows) that are not feasible in vivo, it allow us to isolate such effects to better evaluate this nutritional disorder. Although major reviews in the literature differ in what is considered an acceptable pH threshold for acute ruminal acidosis (pH < 5.2 in Owens et al. 1 vs. pH < 5.0 in Nagaraja and Titgemeyer 2 ), there is a consensus that acute ruminal acidosis is characterized not only by the occurrence but also the extent to which pH is below normal fermentation conditions (average daily pH < 5.8) 2,18,19 . In Fig. 1, the pH is shown to have reached subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA) conditions on the day diets were changed and reached the threshold of 5.2 during days 1 and 2 of the challenge period. ...
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This study aimed to evaluate the effects of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Megasphaera elsdenii as direct fed microbials (DFM) in beef cattle finishing diets to alleviate acute ruminal lactic acidosis in vitro. A dual-flow continuous culture system was used. Treatments were a Control, no DFM; YM1, S. cerevisiae and M. elsdenii strain 1; YM2, S. cerevisiae and M. elsdenii strain 2; and YMM, S. cerevisiae and half of the doses of M. elsdenii strain 1 and strain 2. Each DFM dose had a concentration of 1 × 108 CFU/mL. Four experimental periods lasted 11 days each. For the non-acidotic days (day 1–8), diet contained 50:50 forage to concentrate ratio. For the challenge days (day 9–11), diet contained 10:90 forage to concentrate ratio. Acute ruminal acidosis was successfully established. No differences in pH, d-, l-, or total lactate were observed among treatments. Propionic acid increased in treatments containing DFM. For N metabolism, the YMM treatment decreased protein degradation and microbial protein synthesis. No treatment effects were observed on NH3–N concentration; however, efficiency of N utilization by ruminal bacteria was greater than 80% during the challenge period and NH3–N concentration was reduced to approximately 2 mg/dL as the challenge progressed.
... This suggested that rice bran and concentrate would not be suitable to be added to rumen culture as the main substrates for prolonged digestion. This result was in agreement with some studies that revealed that a dramatic drop of rumen pH causing ruminal acidosis typically occurred when the rumen was supplied with high-concentrate feeds and/or a large amount of non-fiber carbohydrates [32,33]. ...
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The present study evaluated and characterized various types of biomass fermented in the rumen culture. A series of batch experiments were conducted to assess any potential organic acid build-up in the rumen culture fermenting different substrates of biomass. Results showed that pH depression occurred within 2 h of incubation in the rumen culture fermenting rice bran and/or concentrate in which the pH dropped from the neutral level (pH 6.9 ± 0.15) to the acidic level (pH 5.6 ± 0.15). However, at the same period of incubation, the fermentation of grass and tofu pulp in the rumen culture did not have a dramatic drop of pH in which the pH was somewhat stable between 7.0 and 6.85. Organic acids, such as acetic acid and lactic acid, were accumulated in the digesters of rumen culture fermenting rice bran and/or concentrate, suggesting that the culture was acidified which led to ruminal acidosis.
... However, feeding a starter concentrate with a higher content of NFC such as processed corn starch, increases the starch fermentation rate, total SCFA production and lactic acid proportion, but decreases fibre digestion, ammonia levels and the acetate:propionate ratio (Oba and Allen, 2003). Usually, lactate is not present in high concentrations in the rumen; however, when a sudden high supply of NFC occurs, lactic acid builds up (Owens et al., 1998) and ruminal pH decreases. In these situations, significant variations or decreased starter intake are common, probably due to subacute ruminal acidosis. ...
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Thirty-six newborn Holstein calves were used in a randomized block design and allocated to the following groups: 1 – starter concentrate based on ground corn grain, soybean meal, wheat bran and premix of minerals and vitamins (Control); and 2 – the same diet composition, but ground corn replaced with reconstituted corn grain silage (RCGS). Calves were fed 6 l/day of whole milk and had free access to water and concentrate. Calves were weaned from day 57 to 63 and fed hay ad libitum until 70 days of age. The period from birth to 56 days of age was called pre-weaning and from day 57 to 70 – the transition period. On day 70, five animals/treatment were slaughtered to assess ruminal development. Dry matter intake (DMI) and health problems were recorded daily, while weight and blood samples were collected weekly. Ruminal fluid was collected at weeks 8 and 10. Replacing corn grain with RCGS resulted in greater feed efficiency (FE) at pre-weaning (0.71 vs 0.66). Concentrate DMI was higher for control during the transition period (303 vs 256 g/day). Control calves presented higher faecal scores throughout the study. The control diet resulted in higher concentrations of isovaleric and isobutyric acids and ammonia-N at week 8. RGCS increased glucose levels, but decreased total protein concentration during the whole evaluation period. Feeding RCGS was efficient during the preweaning period; however, it decreased intake during the transition period. Data from a longer feeding period after weaning are needed to evaluate the effects of a highly digestible starch source in the diet of young calves.
... Low pH alters microbial metabolic pathways and can be fatal to microbes that are intolerant to low pH. From the host's perspective, a high acid concentration can compromise the rumen epithelium, allowing pathogenic organisms or their antigens to potentially cause systemic health incidences (Owens et al., 1998). Krause and Oetzel (2005) demonstrated that dairy cows challenged with subacute acidosis experienced a significant decrease in milk production for up to three days following onset of subacute acidosis. ...
Fiber from forages comprises a significant proportion of dairy cattle rations and by extension, it contributes largely to the energy concentration of the diet. While the proportion of fiber in the diet is important, the composition of fiber is probably more important as the different constituents of this fraction vary in their contributions to the nutritive value of the feed. Lignin has been described as an important factor limiting the digestion of NDF, reducing intake, and compromising milk production. Although lignin’s effects on these responses have been well characterized, the literature lacks data on the use of indirect calorimetry to evaluate the dietary lignin concentration. Therefore, there is a need to evaluate the energetics of lignin, and its relationship with the energy concentration of the entire NDF fraction. The first experiment used 16 NDF residues from individual feeds or mixed rations to analytically determine the GE concentration of feed NDF. This value was compared to that of fecal NDF, which was analytically determined from 34 fecal NDF residues. The GE concentration of feed NDF was found to be lower than that used in the Dairy NASEM (2021) model’s equations used to calculate dietary gross and digestible energy concentrations. If the observed NDF GE concentration is representative of the true GE concentration of NDF, this result suggests that the Dairy NASEM (2021) model is overpredicting the energetic contribution of NDF. Additionally, this study reports that feed NDF is of a greater energy concentration relative to fecal NDF. This result suggests that nutritional models likely do not capture the full scope of NDF digestibility in their predictions of energy utilization. Lignin’s impact on utilization of energy and nitrogen was examined using twelve multiparous lactating Jersey cows in a two period crossover design. Diets were formulated so to be equal in NDF concentration but differing in their NDF profiles. The LoLig diet contained 32.5% NDF (% DM) and 9.59% lignin (% NDF) while the HiLig diet contained 31.0% NDF (% DM) and 13.3% lignin (% NDF). Interestingly, increasing the concentration of lignin not only decreased the digestibility of NDF, but also CP and starch, likely due to decreased fermentability by ruminal microbes. The effects of reduced digestibility carried through to metabolizable energy concentration but not net energy concentration, likely due to an underpowered experiment or cumulative error associated with calculating net energy. Increasing the concentration of dietary lignin shifted nitrogen excretion from the urine to the feces, which is considered to be better for the environment. Feeding the HiLig diet resulted in lower yields of milk, fat, and protein, suggesting that the impacts of increasing dietary lignin concentration might impact more factors than NDF digestibility. Advisor: Paul J. Kononoff
Two experiments were conducted to evaluate the merit of wood chips (WCH, Exp. 1) or rice hulls (RH, Exp. 2) as the sole fiber source in a high-concentrate diet fed to early-weaned calves as well as their method of delivery (hand-feeding versus self-feeder). Rations were formulated to contain similar concentrations of N, energy and NDF and were offered ad libitum. In Exp. 1, 36 Hereford calves (84.4 kg SE 4.5) were randomly allocated to nine pens and one of three dietary treatments: 1) 160 g/kg of sorghum silage (SS) and 800 g/kg of concentrate hand-fed, 2) 80 g/kg of WCH and 920 g/kg concentrate hand-fed, and 3) same ration as in 2) but self-fed. In Exp. 2, 36 early-weaned Hereford calves (97.4 kg SE 1.7) blocked by BW were randomly allocated to nine pens and one of three dietary treatments: 1) 200 g/kg of alfalfa hay (AH) plus 800 g/kg of concentrate hand-fed, 2) 80 g/kg of RH plus 920 g/kg of concentrate hand-fed, and 3) same ration as in 2) but self-fed. In both experiments animals were weighed (BW) every 14 days, dry matter intake (DMI) was measured weekly, and daytime animal behavior was observed. Gain-to-feed ratio (GF), NEg and a sorting index to characterize the selective consumption of specific fractions, were calculated. Data were analyzed according to a randomized complete plot (Exp. 1) or block (Exp. 2) design, with repeated measures. Fiber source and delivery method effects were tested through orthogonal contrasts. In Exp. 1, replacing SS with WCH did not affect body BW gain, DMI, GF, or NEg. No differences were observed either in feed sorting or eating activity (EA). Using a self-feeder to deliver the WCH ration reduced EA (P<0.05), without affect GF. In Exp. 2, replacing AH with RH did not affect BW gain or DMI but it improved GF (P<0.05). Higher sorting against large particles (>8 mm) and ADF were observed for AH compared to RH (P<0.05). Using a self-feeder to deliver the RH ration reduced DMI and EA (P<0.05) without affecting BW gain and improving GF (P=0.01) compared to hand-feeding. Also, it increased selective refusal of ADF (P<0.05) but not of NDF, without affecting rumination. Treatments did not affect peNDF supply. Results from both experiments show the viability of the use of WCH and RH as a source of fiber in high-concentrate rations for early-weaned calves, as well as their suitability for delivery in self-feeders.
High-moisture cereal grains are often treated with ammonia to prevent spoilage and for perceived animal performance advantages, but there are few reports on the effects of ammonia treatment of cereal on cattle performance. This study was carried out on 101 Charolais cattle to quantify the effects of feeding ammonia-treated maize on the performance of intensively fattened beef cattle. Animals were assigned to 16 pens in two sheds and all animals in each pen were fed on the same diet for 176 d. The cereal in the diets was either ammonia-treated maize (ATM) or untreated maize diet (UTM), formulated to be approximately isoenergetic and isonitrogenous. Cattle fed ATM had a lower feed conversion ratio (FCR) (6.14 ± 0.39 vs 6.49 ± 0.41 kg DM/kg BW; p = 0.011) and tended to have a higher average daily liveweight gain (ADG) (1.60 ± 0.10 vs 1.54 ± 0.10 kg/d; p = 0.060). The pH of the ruminal fluid at slaughter was higher (p < 0.001) in animals that were fed the ATM diet (6.35 ± 0.69) compared to those fed the UTM diet (5.46 ± 0.33). No differences were found in the concentrations of NH3 or total VFA in ruminal fluid between the two groups. The molar proportion of butyric acid from all VFAs was lower in animals fed ATM than UTM (14.69 ± 3.55% and 18.04 ± 2.97% respectively; p = 0.012), and the molar proportion of propionic acid was higher in the ATM than the UTM groups (22.14 ± 1.54% and 19.54 ± 1.72% respectively; p < 0.001). The ratio of acetic acid to propionic acid was significantly lower in animals fed ATM compared to those fed UTM (ATM vs UTM: 2.64 ± 0.26 vs 2.97 ± 0.29; p = 0.0038). Faecal starch was lower in cattle fed ATM than untreated maize (UTM) (14.73 ± 5.65 vs 18.14 ± 4.27% DM; p < 0.001). The pH of faeces in the ATM group was higher than that in the UTM group (4.75 ± 0.19 vs 4.55 ± 0.19; p < 0.001). In conclusion, ammonia treatment of maize resulted in increased ADG and decreased FCR, with reduced faecal starch concentration, suggesting possible gains in efficiency of starch utilisation.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of corn hybrid and processing methods on intake and digestibility of nutrients, rumen fermentation and blood metabolites of steers fed no‐forage finishing diets. Four ruminally fistulated Nellore castrated steers (502 ± 15 kg initial body weight) were distributed in a 4 × 4 Latin square design with a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement consisting of two corn hybrids (semi‐dent and flint) and two processing methods (dry milled and high moisture grain). Interactions of hybrid and processing methods were observed on intake of dry matter (DM), organic matter (OM) and crude protein (CP), as well as on digestibility of DM and CP, rumen pH and ammonia nitrogen (N‐NH3). There was no interaction between hybrid and processing for the volatile fatty acids (VFA) total, acetate (C2), propionate (C3), isobutyric (iC4) and valeric (nC5) concentrations. VFA total concentration shown an average of 103.4 mmol/L. The C2 and C3 concentrations had no effect of the hybrid or processing with averages of 58.7 mmol/L for C2, and 31.3 mmol/l for C3. There was an effect of the processing method on starch consumption and fecal pH, the highest values were observed in grains with high moisture content. Starch digestibility was 0.89 g/g in dry milled and 0.96 g/g in high moisture corn. The greatest digestibility of starch in high moisture corn, irrespective of the corn hybrid, provided evidence of an increase in the energy supply, which may improve the feed efficiency and growth performance of cattle fed no‐roughage finishing diets.
Foxtail millet (Setaria italica L.) is an important alternative crop plant that is cultivated in Northern China. To explore its forage-use potential, a feeding trial of 60 healthy male feedlotting lambs weighing 23 ± 0.36 kg was conducted to determine the effects of replacing peanut vine hay (PVH) with different ratios (0%, 20%, 60%, and100%) of foxtail millet silage (FMS) as forage in rations on growth performance, nutrient digestibility, rumen fermentation characteristics, and bacterial community. The feeding trial was completed in two stages (Stage 1: days 1 to 42, forage: concentrate = 25:75; Stage 2: days 43 to 84, forage: concentrate = 20:80). The results show that dry matter intake (DMI) and average daily gain (ADG) increased linearly with the inclusion level of FMS in the diet (P < 0.05). Increasing the FMS replacement of PVH in rations quadratically increased the nutrient digestibility of dry matter, organic matter, crude protein and ether extract (P < 0.01) during the two stages, but the improvement of neutral detergent fiber (NDF) in response to FMS inclusion was observed during stage 2 (P < 0.01) instead of stage 1. Increasing the forage inclusion level of FMS linearly increased the digestibility of acid detergent fiber (ADF) at two stages (P < 0.05). Regarding rumen fermentation characteristics, increasing the FMS replacement of PVH in rations decreased rumen pH and linearly increased microbial crude protein (MCP) for the two stages (P < 0.05) and linearly increased NH3-N and total volatile fatty acid (VFA) (P < 0.05) during stage 2 instead of stage 1. Regarding rumen VFA pattern, increasing the FMS replacement of PVH in rations increased molar propionate proportion and remarkably decreased the acetate: proportion ratio after lamb feeding, suggesting that rumen fermentation shifted to glucogenic propionate production. Furthermore, the rumen contents of each treatment were subjected to high-throughput sequencing analysis of 16 S rRNA genes in the V3-V4 hypervariable region; here, increasing the FMS replacement of PVH in the rations did not change the alpha diversity indexes, except for the Simpson index, including Chao1, ACE, and OTUs in rumen, while increasing the FMS level in the rations linearly increased the Simpson index (P < 0.01). Increasing the FMS replacement of PVH in the rations did not alter the relative abundance of the major bacteria phyla, nor most of the major genera of rumen in lambs, except for an increasing trend in Proteobacteria. Increasing the FMS replacement of PVH in rations numerically increased starch hydrolysis bacteria, including Prevotella (P = 0.06) and Selenomonas (P = 0.05), while it linearly decreased fiber hydrolysis bacteria involved Ruminococcus and unclassified_Ruminococcaceae (P < 0.05), with numerical improvement occurring in unclassified_Lachnospiraceae (P = 0.11) in the rumen. In brief, increasing the FMS replacement of PVH in rations exhibited greater feed efficiency with increased nutrient digestibility, promoting the total VFA production as available energy in the rumen of feedlotting lambs. Rumen fermentation shifted toward glucogenic propionate production in response to dietary FMS inclusion, and this shift was found to be associated with the increased growth abundance of Prevotella and Selenomonas and the inhibition of Ruminococcus in the rumen.
Fifty years ago Cori and Cori1 3 directed the attention of biochemists to differences in the metabolism of lactic acid isomers in the rat, and in 1964 Dunlop and associates1 9 described D-Iactic acidaemia in the bovine after overloading the rumen with carbohydrates — possibly the first ‘isomeric disease’. Since then authors like Dirksen, Huber, Juhasz and others have contributed markedly to the knowledge of pathogenesis of lactic acidosis. A full account of rumen acidosis and its clinical consequences has been given elsewhere1 7.
The effect of feeding 1.4 kg of barley on the amount and composition of digesta in the rumen, small intestine, caecum, and colon was measured in sheep given either a gradual introduction to barley (over 8 days), no introduction, Yea Sacc (4 g/day for 9 days), virginiamycin (30 mg/day for 4 days) or rumen inoculum (600 mL/day for 4 days). The rumen pH was higher (P < 0.05) and the number of sheep with high (> 5 mmol/L) levels of L-lactate and D-lactate significantly lower (P < 0.05) in sheep receiving no introduction compared to sheep receiving the gradual introduction to barley. Conversely the pH was lower (P < 0.05) and the molar proportion of L-lactate higher (P < 0.001) In the caecum of the sheep receiving no introduction compared to sheep receiving the gradual introduction to barley. There was no difference (P > 0.05) in the incidence of ruminitis between treatment groups. Both virginiamycin and the transfer of rumen fluid from well adapted animals appeared to be as effective as the gradual introduction of barley in controlling L-lactate accumulation in the caecum and colon and maintaining the pH within these organs. The probiotic Yea Sacc did not appear to cause any changes in the pattern of fermentation and digestion when compared to the untreated control animals.
A growth-performance trial and a metabolism trial were conducted to evaluate the influence of a 20% fluctuation in daily feed intake on performance and digestive function in Holstein steers. Steers were programmed to gain 1.1 kg/d. Treatments consisted of a 92% concentrate fed at a constant or variable rate. Overall, feed intake was the same for both groups. However, the variable feeding group had a 20% day-to-day fluctuation in feed allowances. There were no treatment effects. Growth-performance and digestive function were similar for both treatment groups. Implications A daily fluctuation in feed intake of 20% (1.5 kg/d) was not sufficient to adversely affect growth-performance or digestive function in calf-fed Holstein steers during the late finishing phase.
The hepatic uptake of L-lactate is a saturable process and can be described by Michaelis-Menten kinetics. Saturation is not due to pH effects. The therapeutic usefulness of sodium lactate as an alkalinizing agent will be small in diseases where plasma lactate concentrations are already high. Key words: Sheep, liver, L-lactate, hepatic lactate uptake
Summary An in vivo and in vitro fermentation study was conducted in conjunction with a feed intake study to characterize ruminant feed intake and rumen microbial fermentation patterns as steers were adapted to high concen- trate corn and wheat diets. Steers fed the wheat based diet consumed less (P
SUMMARY Acute acidosis problems in ruminants is the result of excessive consumption of fermentable carbohydrates which causes a non-physiological reduction in pH and the production of a toxic factor(s). The low ruminal pH is the result of the production of large quantities of volatile fatty acids as well as other acids (such as lactic, which has a pK of 3.7) and the weaker buffering power of concentrates compared with that of forages (in the pH range of six to four in the rumen). It is most likely to occur if glucose accumulates in conjunction with ruminal pH reductions to 5.0 or less. Acidosis problems should occur in the absence of ruminal glucose accumulation if ruminal pH is sufficiently low and if other readily fermentable carbohydrates which aciduric bacteria can utilize are available in excess. Wheat seems more prone to cause acidosis than other farm grains. Once the lower ruminaI pH's (between five and six) are attained, free amylase of the ruminal ingesta may increase and microbial glucose utilization rates decrease. The increased rate of glucose production and decreased rate of its utilization leads to glucose accumulation in the rumen and to an increased number of lactic acid forming bacteria. Also, free glucose inhibits lactic acid metabolism (at least by pure cultures of Selenomonas ruminantium), and the slower rate of lactic utilization is likely to cause even greater initial ruminal lactic accumulation and absorption. Compounds other than lactic acid are also responsible for digestive disturbances. For in- stance, cattle have been noted to reduce feed intake or to have diarrhea, or both, when ruminal pH was maintained at 5.5 or above, and
Steers receiving Rumensin had reduced acidosis as indicated by elevated ruminal pH and reduced area of ruminal pH below 5.6. Therefore. Ruinensin can be used as a management tool to aid in reducing acidosis and thereby in-creasing feedlot perfoimance. Summary Six runzinallj~-Jistz~luted steers Iiwe used to evaluate the ejject of Rzlmensin and feed intake variation on rz~minal pH. Steers Ii.ere adapted to a 92.5 percent concentrate diet and then szlb-jected to three levels of intake varia-tion: ad libitunz, intake variation o f 2 lb/daj; and intake variation of 4 1b/ daj,. Feed intakes andrunzinalpH Iiwe nzonitored continz~ously throughout the entire trial. Results indicate that Rzlnzensin redz~ced acidosis by elevat-ing average runzinal pH and decreas-ing area ofrunzinal pH belo~t, 5.6. In addition, Rzlmensin stabilized rate of intake and daily rz~minal pH Jluctz~a-tion at the high level of intake varia-tion.