The Rumen & Nitrates

October 26, 2006

By Dr Bob Scott © 2006

The rumen is a complicated fermenting tank.... We can influence the action of what happens in it by what we put into the mix we feed. 

All action in the rumen depends upon the water in the rumen. One of the most insidious and often overlooked item is that polluted water is probably more often the cause of disease than any other. Nitrates are the factor in polluted water that interfere with the proper metabolism for all the rest of the materials in the diet. 

When we fill the rumen with green and wet grasses that have too much N there is no way proper families of microbes are encouraged to multiply. 

One simple addition can make a difference. If we go swimming the sport of swimming is not much fun unless we can get out of the water on a raft, or a deck or a bank at the shore or even a life preserver that makes it possible to float more easily. We need to be able to get to oxygen easily. 

If we add something to the diet that will float (e.g. hay or straw) we give the microbes a chance to get to the surface and get oxygen. 

Totally 100% diets of green wet grass all sink in the water of the rumen. If the N level is artificially changed by too much, then the environment in the rumen encourages those microbes that don't require as much oxygen and they are often the pathogens. 

When we can influence the families of microbes we need for good metabolic action in the rumen we give the sheep or cow the tools she needs to serve us better. 

Livestock depend on us for the tools we give them. 

We could not expect a carpenter to be able to do good work for us if we didn't give him the hammer or proper saw or chisel or whatever he needed to do the job.