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Animal Breeding and Genetics
Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 2002;15(11): 1659-1676.
https://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.2002.1659    Published online January 1, 2002.
Rumen Microbes, Enzymes and Feed Digestion-A Review
Y. Wang, T. A. McAllister
Ruminant animals develop a diverse and sophisticated microbial ecosystem for digesting fibrous feedstuffs. Plant cell walls are complex and their structures are not fully understood, but it is generally believed that the chemical properties of some plant cell wall compounds and the cross-linked three-dimensional matrix of polysaccharides, lignin and phenolic compounds limit digestion of cell wall polysaccharides by ruminal microbes. Three adaptive strategies have been identified in the ruminal ecosystem for degrading plant cell walls: production of the full slate of enzymes required to cleave the numerous bonds within cell walls; attachment and colonization of feed particles; and synergetic interactions among ruminal species. Nonetheless, digestion of fibrous feeds remains incomplete, and numerous research attempts have been made to increase this extent of digestion. Exogenous fibrolytic enzymes (EFE) have been used successfully in monogastric animal production for some time. The possibility of adapting EFE as feed additives for ruminants is under intensive study. To date, animal responses to EFE supplements have varied greatly due to differences in enzyme source, application method, and types of diets and livestock. Currently available information suggests delivery of EFE by applying them to feed offers the best chance to increase ruminal digestion. The general tendency of EFE to increase rate, but not extent, of fibre digestion indicates that the products currently on the market for ruminants may not be introducing novel enzyme activities into the rumen. Recent research suggests that cleavage of esterified linkages (e.g., acetylesterase, ferulic acid esterase) within the plant cell wall matrix may be the key to increasing the extent of cell wall digestion in the rumen. Thus, a crucial ingredient in an effective enzyme additive for ruminants may be an as yet undetermined esterase that may not be included, quantified or listed in the majority of available enzyme preparations. Identifying these pivotal enzyme(s) and using biotechnology to enhance their production is necessary for long term improvements in feed digestion using EFE. Pretreating fibrous feeds with alkali in addition to EFE also shows promise for improving the efficacy of enzyme supplements.
Keywords: Exogenous Fibrolytic Enzymes; Ruminant; Feed Digestion; Alkali

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