Effects of protozoa on bacterial nitrogen recycling in the rumen

K. M. Koenig, C. J. Newbold, F .M. McIntosh, L. M. Rode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effects of protozoa on ruminal NH3-N kinetics and bacterial N recycling were measured in five sheep (57.6 +/- 7.1 kg BW, (x) over bar +/- SD) with ruminal and duodenal cannulas in naturally faunated, defaunated, and refaunated periods. The sheep were fed a diet of 239 g of alfalfa haylage and 814 g of barley concentrate per day (DM basis) divided into 12 equal portions and allocated at 2-h intervals. A pulse dose of 300 mg of N-15 as [N-15]NH4Cl was administered into the rumen ton d 1 and 15) and 300 mg of N-15 as [N-15]urea was administered intravenously to the blood (d 8). Enrichment of N-15 was measured in ruminal NH3-N, bacterial N, and plasma urea N over a period of 35 h. Total collection of urine was made for 5 d and analyzed for purine derivatives to calculate the flow of microbial N, Ruminal parameters and nutrient digestibilities were also measured. Sheep were defaunated using a rumen washing procedure 50 d prior to measurements in the defaunated period. Sheep were refaunated with ruminal contents from a faunated sheep receiving the same diet. Measurements began 26 d following refaunation, at which time protozoal numbers had returned to those in the originally faunated sheep. Data reported in parentheses are for faunated, defaunated, and refaunated sheep, respectively. Total culturable and cellulolytic bacterial numbers were unaffected by defaunation, but there was an increase in flow of microbial N from the rumen (10.8, 17.3, and 11.1 g N/d; P .20) of bacterial N recycling and the percentage of N flux through the bacterial N pool. Total-tract digestion was reduced in defaunated compared with faunated sheep by 8, 17, 15, and 32% for OM, N, NDF, and ADF, respectively. In conclusion, defaunation improved ruminal N metabolism through the enhancement of bacterial protein synthesis, and improvement in the flow of microbial protein to the host animal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2431-2445
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2000


  • bacterial protein
  • nitrogen balance
  • protozoa
  • ruminant flora
  • sheep


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