Factors affecting intestinal starch digestion in ruminants: A review

D. L. Harmon, R. M. Yamka, N. A. Elam

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The process of starch assimilation in the ruminant is complex and remains an avenue by which increases in production efficiency can be gained. Ruminal starch digestion is typically 0.75-0.80 of starch intake. Starch that escapes fermentation and flows to the small intestine may be more resistant to enzymatic digestion and on average 0.35-0.60 of starch entering the small intestine is degraded there. Of the fraction that escapes small intestinal digestion an additional 0.35-0.50 is degraded in the large intestine. This suggests that limitations to small intestinal starch digestion do exist. This review summarizes available information describing the digestive and absorptive processes occurring in the small intestine with an emphasis on nutritional factors that influence these processes. A review of experiments measuring small intestinal starch digestion indicates that small intestinal digestion is either highly variable or poorly determined whereas ruminal and large intestinal digestion are much more clearly described. These data indicate that improvements in methodologies are needed before we can accurately describe processes occurring in the small intestine and formulate diets to optimize site of starch digestion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-318
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Animal Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Digestion
  • Glucose
  • Ruminant
  • Small intestine
  • Starch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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