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Review Paper
Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 1994;7(3): 303-316.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.1994.303    Published online September 1, 1994.
A review of the microbial digestion of feed particles in the rumen
T. A. McAllister, H. D. Bae, L. J. Yanke, K. -J. Cheng, J. K. Ha
Microbial digestion of feed in the rumen involves a sequential attack culminating in the formation of fermentation products and microbial cells that can be utilized by the host animal. Most feeds are protected by a cuticular layer which is in effect a microbial barrier that must be penetrated or circumvented for digestion to proceed. Microorganisms gain access to digestible inner plant tissues through damage to the cuticle, or via natural cell openings (e.g., stomata) and commence digestion from within the feed particles. Primary colonizing bacteria adhere to specific substrates, divide to form sister cells and the resultant microcolonies release soluble substrates which attract additional microorganisms to the digestion site. These newly attracted microorganisms associate with primary colonizers to form complex multi-species consortia. Within the consortia, microorganisms combine their metabolic activities to produce the diversity of enzymes required to digest complex substrates (e.g., cellulose, starch, protein) which comprise plant tissues. Feed characteristics that inhibit the microbial processes of penetration, colonization and consortia formation can have a profound effect on the rate and extent of feed digestion in the rumen. Strategies such as feed processing or plant breeding which are aimed at manipulating feed digestion must be based on an understanding of these basic microbial processes and their concerted roles in feed digestion in the rumen.
Keywords: Rumen Bacteria; Feed Digestion; Colonization; Cellulose; Starch

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