Free Access
Reprod. Nutr. Dev.
Volume 44, Number 3, May-June 2004
Page(s) 195 - 206
Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 44 (2004) 195-206
DOI: 10.1051/rnd:2004023

Protozoa involved in butyric rather than lactic fermentative pattern during latent acidosis in sheep

Ludovic Brossarda, b, Cécile Martina, Frédérique Chaucheyras-Durandb, c and the late Brigitte Michalet-Doreaua

a  Unité de Recherches sur les Herbivores, INRA, Centre de Recherche de Clermont-Ferrand-Theix, 63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France
b  Lallemand Animal Nutrition, 19 rue des Briquetiers, BP 59, 31702 Blagnac Cedex, France
c  Laboratoire de Microbiologie, INRA, Centre de Recherche de Clermont-Ferrand-Theix, 63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France

(Received 5 November 2003; accepted 13 February 2004)

Abstract - We used six ruminally cannulated Texel wethers to study the relative role of protozoa and lactate-metabolizing bacteria in ruminal fermentative patterns during an induced latent acidosis. The sheep were fed an alfalfa hay diet (H) and latent acidosis was induced, following a short transition period of one week, with a grain-rich acidotic diet (W, 60% wheat + 40% alfalfa hay). Ruminal pH, ruminal volatile fatty acids (VFA), lactate and NH3 concentrations, protozoa and lactate-utilizing bacterial counts, the relative proportions of three main bacteria implicated in lactate metabolism (a lactate-producing species, Streptococcus bovis, and two lactate-utilizing species, Selenomonas ruminantium, and Megasphaera elsdenii) using specific 16S-rRNA-targeting oligonucleotide probes, and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity were determined for both diets. The pH parameters (mean, minimum, maximum, time and area under pH 6.0 and 5.5) measured with the W diet were indicative of a latent (i.e., subacute and maintained) acidosis. However, a butyric rather than lactic latent acidosis was observed in this study. Total ruminal lactate concentration remained at low levels with the acidotic diet (< 4 mmol·L-1), but changes were observed in VFA composition, which was oriented towards butyrate at the expense of acetate (P < 0.05), while propionate remained constant. In agreement with the low ruminal lactate concentration, no changes in the proportion of S. bovis 16S-rRNA were observed. The lactate-metabolizing bacterial population also remained fairly constant in number, proportion and activity. The increase in butyrate concentration was accompanied by a proliferation of entodiniomorphs (P < 0.01). These results suggest that the protozoa limited lactate accumulation and possibly also the decrease in pH during latent acidosis. Experiments with defaunated and faunated sheep could provide further evidence of the role of protozoa in the development of rumen latent acidosis.

Key words: acidosis / rumen fermentation / protozoa / bacteria / lactate

Corresponding author: Cécile Martin

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2004