By Philippe Serene

For many years, we focused on improving the feed digestibility in the small intestine. We increased the ingredients with high digestibility and reduced as much as possible the ingredients presenting low digestibility.

But we ignored the basic digestive physiology and namely the importance of the large intestine where bacterial fermentation are contributing as well to the nutritional supply of the animal.

How important are these fermentations?

How nutritionist should adjust their feed formula to optimise both small intestine digestion and large intestine fermentation and provide a more efficient feed conversion. The article below brings some clarifications on that subject.

Generally, carnivores consume animal tissue, which is similar to their own; therefore all the body needs to do is break down the tissue and absorb the different components in the small intestine, which can then be used in the carnivores’ own body.

Herbivores only consume plant materials, which is very difficult to digest. No vertebrates make an enzyme capable of breaking down cellulose. To overcome this, herbivores have developed a symbiotic relationship with a population of microflora that inhabit a specialized region of the gut for fermentation e.g. the caecum or rumen of ruminants. The microflora population of the gut is able to breakdown cellulose and uses the glucose for its own metabolic needs. As a waste product of this process, the microflora population releases volatile fatty acids (e.g. acetate, butyrate & propionate) and lactate, which the herbivore utilizes for energy.