1.The effect of sugar fatty acid esters (SFEs; currently used as food additives for human consumption) on rumen volatile fatty acids (VFA) and gas production was studied with sheep rumen contents in vitro.
2. Some SFEs having monoester contents of more than 70 % increased the molar proportion of propionate in conjunction with reduction in the acetate: propionate ratio when the individual SFE was added to rumen contents in a final concentration of 4 g/l. Laurate sugar ester was the most potent propionate enhancer and rumen gas depressor, the effective dose being as low as 1 g/l in a final concentration. Fatty acid esters other than SFEs had little, if any, effect on rumen VFA production and their molar proportions.
3. Approximately 50% of laurate sugar ester was hydrolysed by in vitro incubation with rumen fluid for 2 h. The addition of fatty acids and sucrose was also effective in the alterations of rumen VFA and gas production. However, the effect of SFEs on in vitro rumen fermentation was significantly greater than that of their constituent fatty acids or sucrose, or both. Accordingly, the effect appeared to be ascribed to the complex action of SFE itself and to its constituents, free fatty acids and sucrose.
4. SFEs, at the level of 4 g/l, reduced substantially the froth formation (ingesta volume increase) and seemed to be effective for the prevention of bloat.