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Benefit of including bioactive legumes (sainfoin, red clover) in grass-based silages on ruminant production and pollutant emissions

Abstract : Fodder legume species allow to reduce inputs in livestock breeding systems (fertilizer, concentrates) notably because they contain high levels of crude proteins which are of primary importance in ruminant nutrition. However, during both silage and rumen fermentation processes, proteins are submitted to degradation which affects forage nutritive value and leads to nitrogen (N) losses notably via urine. Some specific legumes can then be of particular interest as they produce plant secondary compounds that can positively affect silage and digestive processes. Condensed tannins (CTs) present in sainfoin (SF, Onobrychis viciifolia) are able to bind with proteins thereby reducing their degradation in the silo and the rumen, resulting in a shift in N excretion from urine to faeces. Red clover (RC, Trifolium pratense) contains polyphenol oxidase (PPO), an enzyme that catalyses the oxidation of different phenolics into quinones. As CTs, quinones are able to form complexes with proteins that will similarly reduce their degradation in the silo and the rumen. The aim of this thesis was to investigate and quantify the potential benefits of using these two bioactive legume species on i) quality and conservation of silages, ii) rumen fermentation, digestive efficiency and sheep performance, and iii) environmental footprint (N excretion and CH4 emissions). We conducted two in vitro and two in vivo trials which were based on silages of pure legumes or of different mixtures with the grass species (timothy T, Phleum pratense L.), which served as control. In the in vitro trials, we focussed on silage quality, silage conservation and rumen fermentation, while in the in vivo trials, we focussed on lambs' performance, digestion efficiency, N balance and CH4 emissions. Including bioactive legumes in mixtures with grass improved, compared to pure grass, forage quality and fermentation during the silage making process, as well as proteins' protection from degradation within both the silos and the rumen. Lambs fed with the mixtures involving legumes responded with an increase in DM intake compared to their counterparts fed with T. Nevertheless, due to a possibly different fibre composition and to the presence of CT which impaired SF digestibility, lambs that consumed T-SF showed lower intake and performance than those that received RC-containing silages. In the rumen, RC proteins appeared more protected from degradation than SF ones, while in the subsequent parts of the digestive tract, the proteins-CT complexes (from SF) might less dissociate than the proteins-quinones ones (from RC). This could partly explain the environment-friendly shift in N excretion from urine to faeces when animals are fed with T-SF. SF also allowed to slightly reduce CH4 emissions. Thus, utilizing bioactive legumes in livestock feeding practices is a promising strategy to produce animal products more sustainably. Our results show different benefits relative to the bioactive legume species involved, directed towards boosted forage quality and animals' performance for RC but towards lowered wastes for SF. Further research is thus needed to better characterize these benefits and enlarging investigations to other plant species, mixtures and potential benefits (e.g. health). This will help to determine the appropriate choice of plant species according to the objectives.
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Giuseppe Copani. Benefit of including bioactive legumes (sainfoin, red clover) in grass-based silages on ruminant production and pollutant emissions. Life Sciences [q-bio]. Université Blaise Pascal (Clermont Ferrand 2), 2015. English. ⟨NNT : 2015CLF22594⟩. ⟨tel-02798180⟩

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