The Minnesota-based agri-giant announced last week that its team of researchers at the company’s innovation campus in Elk River, Minnesota had developed a dual-flow in vitro continuous culture rumen fermentation system to use in research and ingredient trials.
The system simulates the functioning of a rumen based on temperature, pH and liquid and solid passage rates, it explained.
The goal in developing the research tool was to improve efficiency for ruminant research, said Haley Johnson, research scientist with Cargill, and Guillermo Schroeder, global R&D director for ruminants at Cargill. The system is intended to increase the speed of research trials by boosting the ability to screen products and the capabilities for examining microbial activity in the rumen.
“Adding this system to Cargill’s ruminant research capabilities allows for a number of improvements, including: Fast turnaround to execute projects (no feed grade approval needed to test products); and the ability to screen nutrients and products for potential applications before testing in animals. [It] increases accuracy in predicting rumen response, especially for nutrients and products with effects on shifting the rumen microbial community,” they told FeedNavigator.
“It includes three-step screening, from batch culture to in vitro continuous culture to live trial, all conducted at the same facility), and it advances modeling of rumen fermentation, due to dairy and beef formulation software enhancement and nutrient and microbial flow modeling data, with decreased variation.”
The system took about two years to develop, they said. Several of the components involved had to be custom designed and made.
Design and research focus
Previously, there have been single flow or “continuous culture” fermentation systems, Johnson and Schroeder said. However, the new artificial rumen was designed to be dual-flow to improve speed.
“Dual-flow continuous culture is the model that is able to simulate two separate flow rates of digesta leaving the vessel,” they said. “This allows removal of liquid contents at a faster rate than solids, better mimicking natural flows of digesta in the gastrointestinal tract.”
The system needs to be inoculated with fluid from the rumen of a cow or lactating cow prior to the start of a feeding trial, and then a mixed ration or feed is added daily to develop the “continuous culture,” and rumen microbes, the company said. The device uses 12 fermenters and is the only dual system in the US that also is able to provide real-time gas analysis.
Continuous culture trials can be used to examine several different types of feed technology, said Johnson and Schroeder. One type of trial would be comparing a diet run through the in vitro continuous culture with the performance response from lactating cows on the same diet.
“We can design studies, comparing different diets side-by-side to understand what are the conditions in which certain technologies (i.e. additives) have a better chance of producing benefits,” they said.
Other trial examples include testing new additives before designing diets for cows to have a better sense of what the needed dose will be.