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Forages and Pastures Symposium: revisiting mechanisms, methods, and models for altering forage cell wall utilization for ruminants

By: Luis O Tedeschi, Jordan M Adams, Ricardo A M Vieira

The underlying principles of forage cell wall utilization by ruminants have been known for over 50 years, but a significant amount of knowledge of the structure and synthesis of critical components of the plant cell wall, mechanisms and methods to alter its digestibility, and assessment techniques to quantify its components as well as their fermentability has been accumulated in the last 30 years. Such knowledge has even allowed us to make recommendations about the importance of fiber in the diet to improve animal performance and welfare. For instance, some industries (especially the paper mill and biofuels) have attained significant advancements toward modifying plant lignin (a critical component of the cell wall that reduces fermentability) and lignin-degrading microorganisms that could assist the animal nutrition community in increasing the digestibility of forage cell wall without further pretreatment. There are many techniques and technologies available to increase cell wall digestibility and, consequently, animal productivity. However, each has potential and limitations, and when used alone, it may not yield the best outcome. From a ruminant nutrition perspective, combining such techniques and technologies with the next generation of mathematical models seems more likely to yield significant improvements in forage cell wall digestibility.

Read the full article in the Journal of Animal Science.