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Toxins that Affect the Ruminant

The ruminal microorganisms metabolize most of the naturally occurring toxins present in feeds to metabolites which do not pose a threat to the animal's health and thus are considered the first line of defence against natural toxicity. However, some compounds are metabolized to toxic metabolites in the rumen or inhibit the production of other essential compounds thereby causing distress in the animal. Diverse examples of naturally occurring toxins and the biochemical mechanisms by which they are detoxified in the rumen are going to be considered.

Ruminants acquire tolerance to increased concentrations of toxic materials in feeds. Increased tolerance to toxins can be related to a change in the microbial population in the rumen. Some of the toxins present in feeds that affect the performance of the ruminant animal include oxalates, nitrate, pirrolizidine alkaloids, mimosine, phyto-oestrogens, tryptophan, SMCO, phenolic monomers, and mycotoxins.

This series of web pages was created by Manuel Hernandez, an undergraduate student at Cornell University for the AS625 class. All comments and suggestions are welcome.

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