Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 1057–1067 | Cite as

Assessing in vivo digestibility and effects on immune system of sheep fed alfalfa hay supplemented with a fixed amount of Ulva rigida and Gracilaria vermiculophylla

  • Ana R. J. CabritaEmail author
  • Alexandra Correia
  • Ana R. Rodrigues
  • Paulo P. Cortez
  • Manuel Vilanova
  • António J.M. Fonseca


Ruminants could be the most suitable domestic animals to be supplemented with seaweeds as the rumen ecosystem might provide the animal the ability to use these feed resources by breaking down the complex polysaccharides. The objective of the present in vivo study was to determine the digestibility and the effects on the immune system of one green (Ulva rigida) and one red (Gracilaria vermiculophylla) seaweed cultivated in an integrated multitrophic aquaculture system (IMTA) and included in the diet of sheep at a supplementing level up to 25%. Both seaweeds showed lower dry matter digestibilitity than alfalfa hay, the organic matter digestibility of U. rigida being higher than that of G. vermiculophylla. The studied seaweeds had similar fiber and energy digestibility. Seaweed supplementation did not influence hematological parameters, reactive oxygen species production by neutrophils, nor lymphocytic response to T and B cells mitogens. The low fiber digestibility of selected seaweeds would be the major constraint to their use in high amounts in ruminant diets. Dietary seaweed supplementation has no deleterious effect on the immune function of cells mediating innate and acquired immunity.


Digestibility Immunity Seaweeds Sheep 



This work received financial support from the European Union (FEDER funds through COMPETE) and National Funds (FCT) through projects EXPL/CVT-NUT/0286/2013 - FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-041111 and UID/QUI/50006/2013 - POCI/01/0145/FERDER/007265 (LAQV). To all financing sources, the authors are greatly indebted. The authors also acknowledge Sílvia Azevedo (ICBAS-UP) for the valuable technical assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

The present experiment was conducted at the Clinical and Veterinary Investigation Center of Vairão (Vila do Conde, Portugal) from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences Abel Salazar, University of Porto (ICBAS-UP), in strict accordance with good animal practice as defined by national authorities and European Union Directive 2010/63/EU. The experimental animal procedures were approved by the Local Animal Ethics Committee of ICBAS-UP, licensed by the Portuguese Directorate-General of Food and Veterinary Medicine (Direção Geral de Alimentação e Veterinária) of the Ministry for Agriculture and Sea (Ministério da Agricultura e do Mar), and conducted by trained scientists following FELASA category C recommendations. All methods and procedures were performed following the established guidelines from these institutions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana R. J. Cabrita
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexandra Correia
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ana R. Rodrigues
    • 1
  • Paulo P. Cortez
    • 3
  • Manuel Vilanova
    • 2
    • 3
  • António J.M. Fonseca
    • 1
  1. 1.REQUIMTE, LAQV, ICBAS, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas de Abel SalazarUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.I3S, Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, IBMC, Instituto de Biologia Molecular e CelularUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  3. 3.ICBAS - Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas de Abel SalazarUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal

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