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Laser beefs up livestock digestion.

Laser beefs up livestock digestion

Cows, sheep and other livestock with a special stomach compartment called a rumen are among the few animals that can digest cellulose, the plentiful plant fiber. But even ruminants must regurgitate and rechew their cud several times in order for rumen microbes to break down the cullulose in grass. New tests indicate that pretreating grass with a laser zap may shorten digestion time and increase the amount of nutrients these animals can extract from their fibrous meals.

Range scientist James R. Forwood aimed an optical laser at grasses and then immersed them in steer digestive juices. The laser treatment, he found, improved the digestibility of tall fescue and switchgrass by 11 and 14 percent respectively. Increasing digestibility by just 3 percent can boost livestock weight gains by 25 to 30 percent, according to previous USDA studies. Forwood, of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Ft. Collins, Colo., notes that the laser appears to work by puncturing the grass. While many farmers today use electric grinders to achieve this result, he says, "our hope is that the laser is more effective than just chopping."
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Title Annotation:using lasers to help ruminant animals digest cellulose
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 13, 1990
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