Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Buse et al. | Protein digestibility assays.

https: / / doi .org/ 10 .3168/ jdsc .2021 -0139 Short Communication


Open Access


Hydrolyzed feather meal (HFM) is a feedstuff high in rumen undegraded protein (RUP) that can be used as an effective source of metabolizable protein for dairy cattle. Because the production process may vary, the rumen degradability and intestinal digestibility of HFM may also vary. Additionally, some processes may incorporate additional blood into the final product to result in feather meal with poultry blood. To determine the rumen degradability and intestinal digestibility of these products, several laboratory assays can be used; the common assays are the mobile bag (MOB), modified three-step (MTS), and Ross (ROS) assays. Although all 3 assays determine RUP digestibility, they vary in whether they are performed in situ, in vitro, or both. The objective of this study was to evaluate the ruminal degradability and intestinal digestibility of HFM originating from processes that differ in their inclusion of blood, and to compare the MOB, MTS, and ROS assays. Ten samples of HFM, which were identified by the suppliers as HFM with little blood (n = 5) and with more blood (n = 5), were spot-sampled, collected from 10 production plants across the United States, and subjected to all 3 assays. Assay type had an effect on RUP, total-tract crude protein (CP) digestibility, and the amount of RUP digested. A significant effect was observed on RDP and RUP concentrations for blood inclusion; no effect was detected for total-tract CP digestibility. We found no difference in RUP digestibility for assay or blood inclusion. There was also no interaction of the effect of assay or blood inclusion. Results suggest that even though there are differences in chemical composition in HFM associated with the inclusion of blood, such as ash and crude fat, few if any differences are observed in intestinal digestion of protein. Although the assays varied in their estimates of rumen undegraded protein, MOB and MTS yielded the most similar values. However, all 3 assays resulted in similar estimates of RUP digestibility.