Metabolism of silage alcohols in lactating dairy cows

N. B. Kristensen, A. Storm, B. M.L. Raun, B. A. Røjen, D. L. Harmon

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79 Scopus citations


Dairy cows fed silage are subjected to various alcohols and low molecular weight esters. Four lactating Holstein cows fitted with ruminal cannulas and permanent indwelling catheters in the hepatic portal vein, hepatic vein, mesenteric vein, and mesenteric artery were used to study the absorption of alcohols into portal blood and the metabolism of feed alcohols in the rumen and splanchnic tissues. The cows were allocated to 4 experimental treatments in a Latin square design. All treatments were formulated as total mixed rations with the same overall nutrient composition, differing by the source of corn silage. Treatments were a control silage and 3 qualities of problematic corn silage (silage with Fusarium toxin, Penicillium-infected silage, and silage with a high propanol content). Feeding was followed by a decreasing ruminal pH, as well as decreasing molar proportions of ruminal acetate and isobutyrate. The ruminal concentrations of total VFA, ethanol, propanol, 2-butanol, ethyl acetate, propyl acetate, glucose, and L-lactate, and molar proportions of propionate, butyrate, isovalerate, valerate, and caproate increased after feeding. Treatments affected ruminal concentrations of propanol, propyl acetate, and butyrate and a strong correlation was observed between ruminal propyl acetate and the molar proportion of butyrate (r = -0.79). Arterial concentrations of ethanol, propanol, propanal, acetone (sum of acetone and acetoacetate), 3-hydroxybutyrate, L-lactate, glutamate, and glutamine increased, and the arterial concentration of glucose decreased after feeding, but no effects of treatment were observed for arterial variables. The postprandial increase in arterial ethanol was maintained for 5 h. The net portal release of ethanol tended to decrease with the treatment with the lowest ethanol content, and the net splanchnic release of ethanol increased after feeding, but overall, the net splanchnic flux of ethanol was not different from zero, in agreement with the liver being the major organ for alcohol metabolism. The net portal flux and net hepatic flux of propanol were affected by treatment. All dietary ethanol and propanol were accounted for by absorption of the respective alcohol into the portal blood. The hepatic extraction ratios of ethanol and propanol were, on average, 63 to 66%, and no indications of saturation of hepatic alcohol metabolism were observed at any time. We concluded that typical amounts of alcohols in corn silage do not interfere with splanchnic metabolism of any of the measured variables and do not saturate hepatic pathways for alcohol metabolism. However, even low concentrations of alcohols in feed might affect ruminal metabolism and are followed by hours of elevated peripheral blood concentrations of alcohols.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1364-1377
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge Birgit H. Løth for her skilfull technical assistance and the staff of the intensive care unit at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences for care of the cows during the study. Funding for the present study was provided by the Directorate for Food, Fisheries and Agri Business (#FFS05-DJF-3) and the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences.


  • Alcohol
  • Dairy cow
  • Metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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