Increased efficiency of nutrient utilization can potentially be gained with increased starch digestion in the small intestine in ruminants. However, ruminants have quantitative limits in the extent of starch disappearance in the small intestine. The objective is to explore the nutritional and physiological constraints that contribute to limitations of carbohydrate assimilation in the ruminant small intestine. Altered digesta composition and passage rate in the small intestine, insufficient pancreatic α-amylase and/or small intestinal carbohydrase activity, and reduced glucose absorption could all be potentially limiting factors of intestinal starch assimilation. The absence of intestinal sucrase activity in ruminants may be related to quantitative limits in small intestinal starch hydrolysis. Multiple sequence alignment of the sucrase-isomaltase complex gives insight into potential molecular mechanisms that may be associated with the absence of intestinal sucrase activity, reduced capacity for intestinal starch digestion, and limitations in the efficiency of feed utilization in cattle and sheep. Future research efforts in these areas will aid in our understanding of small intestinal starch digestion and glucose absorption to optimize feeding strategies for increased meat and milk production efficiency.

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Published in Ruminants, v. 2, issue 1.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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