Feed Evaluation and Preservation

Animal trials consistent with ethics code


Research into the nutritional value of cattle feeds started in the late 1960s. The digestibility of a large diversity of roughages, feed ingredients, by-products and compound feeds has been determined using sheep (wethers) to deduce the energy value. Starting in the early ‘90s, rumen and intestinal incubations have been carried out in fistulated cows for protein evaluation. A great deal of expertise has been built regarding in vitro techniques on the basis of rumen fluid and enzymes as well as regarding the NIRS technology for estimating the feeding value in practice. Besides the effect of ensiling techniques and silage additives on the fermentation characteristics of forages can be examined. This research division has 15 digestion cages for wethers, at least 4 cows with a rumen cannula and 2 cows with a cannula in the duodenum and freezing storage for feed. Feed analyses are done in ANIMALAB’s Chemistry, Chromatography and Physics laboratories, whereas the in vitro determinations take place at ANIMALAB’s Digestive Physiology laboratory.


  • Digestibility trials with wethers to determine the energy value (NEL) 
  • Rumen and intestinal incubations in fistulated cows to determine the degradation characteristics of nutrients (organic matter, crude protein, starch, NDF) in the rumen and the intestinal digestibility of protein and amino acids.
  • Calculation of the protein value (DVE, OEB) in accordance with the Dutch system
  • Study of the impact of feeds or additives on rumen fermentation (pH, ammonia, volatile fatty acids)
  • Determination of the chemical composition and in vitro digestibility of feeds to estimate energy and protein values
  • Determination of the digestion rate of feeds
  • Ensiling experiments and determination of the fermentation characteristics of silages


Johan De Boever