The red deer is an intermediate feeder, showing a marked degree of forage selectivity, with seasonal morphological adaptations due to changes in food quality and availability. In captivity, deer have a limited choice of habitat and food, and we hypothesize that this condition affects the rumen environment. Rumen samples were collected from 20 farmed and 11 wild red deer in autumn 2018 in Poland, and analyzed for chemical composition, food residues, microbial population, and rumen papillation. Farmed deer had the highest Campylobacter
spp., and total anaerobic bacteria, but lower Clostridium
spp. Moreover, they showed a decrease in Diplodininae protozoa, and the presence of holotrichs that were absent in the wild animals. The rumen digesta of farmed animals had lower dry matter and acid detergent fiber than the wild ones. The analysis of food residues underlined the poor variety of the diet for animals in the farm. This apparently affected the papillation of the rumen, with animals of the farm having the shortest papillae of the Atrium ruminis
. Overall, results suggest that red deer kept in farms, with a diet based mainly on grass, tree leaves, and some concentrate supplements, undergo a small modification of the rumen compared to the wild conspecifics.
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