Friday, March 9, 2012

Developing baby rumens

A baby ruminant is born with a very small, non-functioning rumen. Until the rumen is developed, baby ruminants function like simple-stomached animals (monogastrics) and require highly-digestible diets.

While rumen development is affected by several factors, the most important one is dry feed intake. The rumen will be slow to develop in an animal that is fed a strictly milk diet. Carbohydrates (from hay and grain) provide the substrates for microbial fermentation.

Creep feeding stimulates
rumen development
Contrary to what many producers think, a grain diet will develop the rumen more quickly than a forage diet. This is because grain is fermented to propionate and butyrate, whereas forages are fermented to mostly acetate. Acetate is less stimulatory to rumen development.

Penn State University has several images which show the difference in rumen development among calves fed different diets.

Early rumen development is essential in artificial rearing and early weaning systems. It is one of the advantages to creep feeding. 

1 comment:

Stevie said...

Thanks for this. We just got our first lambs and were told not to give grain---just milk and hay. This is contrary to how we have raised goat kids as they always get grain when their mothers are on the milk stand. So I will continue to incorporate grain feeding free choice to the lambs as they grow. Thanks!