Digestibility Kinetics of Polyhydroxyalkanoate and Poly(butylene succinate-co-adipate) after In Vitro Fermentation in Rumen Fluid
Using polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) materials for ruminal boluses could allow for longer sustained release of drugs and hormones that would reduce administration time and unneeded animal discomfort caused by continuous administration. The objective of this study was to determine ruminal degradability and kinetics of biodegradable polymers and blends. A proprietary PHA-based polymer, poly(butylene succinate-co-adipate) (PBSA), PBSA:PHA melt blends, and forage controls were incubated in rumen fluid for up to 240 h. Mass loss was measured after each incubation time, and digestion kinetic parameters were estimated. Thermogravimetric, differential scanning calorimetry, and intrinsic viscosity analyses were conducted on incubated samples. Generally, across treatments, mass loss was significant by 96 h with a minimum increase of 0.25% compared to 0 h but did not change thereafter. Degradation kinetics demonstrated that polymer treatments were still in the exponential degradation phase at 240 h with a maximum disappearance rate of 0.0031 %/h. Melting temperature increased, onset thermal degradation temperature decreased, and intrinsic viscosity decreased with incubation time, indicating structural changes to the polymers. Based on these preliminary findings, the first stage of degradation occurs within 24 h and PHA degrades slowly. However, further ruminal degradation studies of biodegradable polymers are warranted to elucidate maximum degradation and its characteristics.