Enhancing Ruminant Health
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Research

The function of molasses and sugars in the ruminant diet has been studied for many years. Molasses was first extracted from the sugar refining process in the mid-19th century. Since then, refiners have been looking for markets for molasses, and animal feed has been an important component of that.

Like research in many areas, even after a couple of generations, while there are aspects that have become well known, there are others less well known. We still do not understand what form of “sugar” is most beneficial and in what nutritional circumstances.

Included below are a selection of articles and research studies relating to sugar and molasses, from basic considerations to an atomic level view.

 

Published 06/18/2012
Author: Jeffrey Firkins (The Ohio State University)

Introduction

Sugars are rapidly and extensively fermented in the rumen. Clearly, adding sugar to a diet already high in ruminally degraded carbohydrates should offer little benefit and could decrease digestibility of fiber, whereas diets that have less-than-optimal rumen degrade carbohydrate probably will benefit the most from addition of sugars. Therefore, dietary situations influence the optimum feeding rate of between 2.5 and 5% supplemental sugar (Broderick and Radloff, 2004; Firkins et al., 2008b). The typical inference is of a double-edged sword in that sugars provide a burst of energy to "jump start" ruminal processes, but excess sugar intake could cause a burst of acid production that promotes acidosis. However, current research complicated these traditional interpretations and adds a different dimension to consider. 

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