Synergistic effects of mixing cocksfoot and sainfoin on in vitro rumen fermentation. Role of condensed tannins. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 2012, 178, 48-56.

Abstract. Some bioactive secondary metabolites in forage legumes can cause digestive interactions, so that the rumen fermentation pattern of a mixture of forages can differ from the average values of its components. The objective of this study was to investigate the potential role of condensed tannins (CT) on the synergistic effects between one grass species, cocksfoot, and one CT-containing legume species, sainfoin, on in vitro rumen fermentation characteristics. Cocksfoot and sainfoin in different proportions (in g/kg, 1000:0, 750:250, 500:500, 250:750 and 0:1000) were incubated under anaerobic conditions in culture bottles containing buffered rumen fluid from sheep. Incubations were carried out using artificial saliva with and without polyethylene glycol (PEG), which binds and thus inactivates CT. Rumen fermentation parameters describing the degradation and the fate of the energetic and nitrogenous substrates were measured at 3.5 and 24 h. At the early fermentation stage, when the sainfoin level increased from 0 to 1000 g/kg, the ammonia concentration in the medium quadratically decreased from 3.20 to 0.53 mmol/l in absence of PEG (P<0.01) but not in its presence. This result demonstrates that sainfoin CT decreased the rumen degradation of the proteins in the whole mixture, including the proteins in cocksfoot, rather than just the proteins in sainfoin. Interestingly, the total gas and methane productions were lower in mixtures incubated in absence of PEG than in presence of PEG (P<0.001) while no significant PEG effect was observed on digestibility. At the late fermentation stage, a positive quadratic effect on dry matter digestibility was detected without PEG (P<0.05), indicating a synergistic action of cocksfoot plus sainfoin on plant substrate degradation due to CT. The presence of PEG increased gas production (P<0.001) and NH3-N concentration in the medium (P<0.001). Our results suggest that CT could allow a better utilization of plant substrates in mixtures by the rumen ecosystem by improving the partitioning of degraded substrates toward lower gas losses, and decreasing the protein degradation.