Grain feeding leads to faster rumen development in young ruminant animals.
Baby ruminants are 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 substrates for fermentation.
Contrary to what many people 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 calf rumen 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 an advantage of creep feeding.
Posted By Susan Schoenian to Shepherd's Notebook at 3/09/2012 11:09:00 AM