Predicting feed quality—chemical analysis and in vitro evaluation
Mould, F.L. 2003. Predicting feed quality—chemical analysis and in vitro evaluation. Field Crops Research 84(1-2): 31-44
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As the ideal method of assessing the nutritive value of a feedstuff, namely offering it to the appropriate class of animal and recording the production response obtained, is neither practical nor cost effective a range of feed evaluation techniques have been developed. Each of these balances some degree of compromise with the practical situation against data generation. However, due to the impact of animal–feed interactions over and above that of feed composition, the target animal remains the ultimate arbitrator of nutritional value. In this review current in vitro feed evaluation techniques are examined according to the degree of animal–feed interaction. Chemical analysis provides absolute values and therefore differs from the majority of in vitro methods that simply rank feeds. However, with no host animal involvement, estimates of nutritional value are inferred by statistical association. In addition given the costs involved, the practical value of many analyses conducted should be reviewed. The in sacco technique has made a substantial contribution to both understanding rumen microbial degradative processes and the rapid evaluation of feeds, especially in developing countries. However, the numerous shortfalls of the technique, common to many in vitro methods, the desire to eliminate the use of surgically modified animals for routine feed evaluation, paralleled with improvements in in vitro techniques, will see this technique increasingly replaced. The majority of in vitro systems use substrate disappearance to assess degradation, however, this provides no information regarding the quantity of derived end-products available to the host animal. As measurement of volatile fatty acids or microbial biomass production greatly increases analytical costs, fermentation gas release, a simple and non-destructive measurement, has been used as an alternative. However, as gas release alone is of little use, gas-based systems, where both degradation and fermentation gas release are measured simultaneously, are attracting considerable interest. Alternative microbial inocula are being considered, as is the potential of using multi-enzyme systems to examine degradation dynamics. It is concluded that while chemical analysis will continue to form an indispensable part of feed evaluation, enhanced use will be made of increasingly complex in vitro systems. It is vital, however, the function and limitations of each methodology are fully understood and that the temptation to over-interpret the data is avoided so as to draw the appropriate conclusions. With careful selection and correct application in vitro systems offer powerful research tools with which to evaluate feedstuffs.
Supported by the CGIAR System-wide Livestock Programme