Clearance of Biodegradable Polymer and Polyethylene Films from the Rumens of Holstein Bull Calves
Due to the occurrence of plastic impaction in ruminants and its deleterious effects on health and production, it is necessary to determine the suitability of biodegradable polymers to replace polyethylene-based agricultural plastics, such as hay netting. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the clearance of a polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) and poly(butylene succinate-co-adipate) (PBSA) melt-blend polymer from the rumen when fed to cattle and subsequent animal health. Twelve Holstein bull calves were dosed with an encapsulated 13.6 g of PBSA:PHA (Blend), 13.6 g of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), or four empty gelatin capsules (Control) for 30 d. The feed intake, body weight, and body temperature were evaluated, and hemograms were run on d 0 and d 30. On d 31, calves were euthanized to evaluate gross rumen measurements and pathology, papillae length, and polymer residues in rumen contents. No calves presented any signs related to plastic impaction. The feed intake; body weight; rectal temperature; hematological parameters; gross rumen measurements and pathology; and rumen pH and temperature were not affected by treatments. Calves dosed with LDPE had 27 g of undegraded polymer retained in the rumen while Blend calves had only 2 g of fragmented polymers that were 10% of their original size. Agricultural plastics developed from PBSA:PHA may be a suitable alternative to LDPE-based products in the case of animal ingestion and may reduce the incidence of plastic impaction.