Two experiments were conducted to determine the effects of several essential oil active compounds on rumen microbial fermentation. In the first experiment, 4 doses (5, 50, 500, and 5,000 mg/L) of 5 essential oil compounds were evaluated using in vitro 24-h batch culture of rumen fluid with a 60:40 forage:concentrate diet (18% crude protein; 30% neutral detergent fiber). Treatments were control (CON), eugenol (EUG), guaiacol, limonene, thymol (THY), and vanillin. After 24 h, the pH was determined, and samples were collected to analyze ammonia N and volatile fatty acids (VFA). The highest dose of all compounds decreased total VFA concentration and increased the final pH. Eugenol at 5 mg/L tended to reduce the proportion of acetate and the acetate to propionate ratio, at 50 and 500 mg/L tended to reduce ammonia N concentration, and at 500 mg/L reduced the proportion of propionate and branched-chain VFA concentration, without affecting total VFA concentration. All other treatments had minor effects or changes occurred only after total VFA concentration decreased. In the second experiment, 8 dual-flow continuous culture fermenters (1,320 mL) were used in 3 replicated periods (6 d of adaptation and 3 d of sampling) to study the effects of THY and EUG on rumen microbial fermentation. Fermenters were fed 95 g/d of DM of a 60:40 forage:concentrate diet (18% crude protein; 30% neutral detergent fiber). Treatments were CON, 10 mg/L of monensin (positive control), and 5, 50, or 500 mg/L of THY and EUG, and were randomly assigned to fermenters within periods. During the last 3 d of each period, samples were taken at 0, 2, 4, and 6 h after the morning feeding and analyzed for peptides, amino acids, and ammonia N concentrations, and total and individual VFA concentrations. Monensin changed the VFA profile as expected, but inhibited nutrient digestion. Eugenol and THY decreased total VFA concentration and changed the VFA profile, and only 5 mg/L of THY tended to reduce the proportion of acetate, increased the proportion of butyrate, and increased the large peptides N concentration without decreasing total VFA concentration. Most of these essential oil compounds demonstrated their antimicrobial activity by decreasing total VFA concentration at high doses. However, EUG in batch fermentation and 5 mg/L of THY in continuous culture modified the VFA profile without decreasing total VFA concentration, and EUG in batch fermentation decreased ammonia N concentration. © American Dairy Science Association, 2006.
- Essential oil
- Rumen fermentation