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Understanding the function of the ruminal microbiome


How can microbial populations in the rumen affect dairy cattle performance? Also is there a link between DNA and rumen efficiency? This article looks at research carried out on the important functions of the gut microbiome.


BY TREENA HEIN, INDEPENDENT CORRESPONDENT I


n dairy cows, what happens in the rumen is crucial, affecting how a cow’s efficiency in both using the nutrients in her feed and her production of nutrients involved in milking performance.


“Hence, there is growing interest within the ruminant live- stock sector to understand the functionality within and among rumen microbes,” explains Dr Sabrina Greenwood at the University of Vermont and her student Mallory Honan in a recent paper in the journal Nature. “Current knowledge of the rumen microbiome is cross-disciplinary and rapidly expand- ing, with novel research emerging”. New analysis techniques are needed, Greenwood and Honan explain, because “despite advances in our understanding, there is still a gap in knowl- edge regarding the undercurrents and interplay of mi- crobe-specific metabolic pathways because of their dynamic- ity, adaptability, and complexity”. Earlier this year, a group of scientists from China and Canada revealed that several Prevotella species of bacteria were


significantly more abundant in the rumen of cows producing high yields of milk protein, and that these microbes might also affect the metabolism of amino acids. The team in this case concluded that both the activities of microbes in the rumen and some cow-dependent mechanisms affect milk production quality among cows fed the same diet, and more research could lead to the development of precision feeding strategies to improve milk quality and production. Dr Leluo Guan, one of the study authors and a professor in the faculty of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science at the University of Alberta, explains further. “We do know that cows fed the same diet have different rumen efficiencies related to the microbiome present in their rumens,” she says, “and so I speculate that if we can accurately determine a cow’s rumen microbiome/efficiency and say her rumen efficiency is high, we can feed her lower level of high energy diet or even low- er-energy feed and she will still be a very efficient performer”.


▶ GUT HEALTH | DECEMBER 2020 63


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