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Global approach to rumen microbiome research necessary


In recent years, much emphasis has been put on the composition and function of the rumen microbiome and its association with environmental and economically important factors, such as methane emissions. However, a recently published review, suggests that a new and more global approach to rumen microbiome research may hold the answers necessary for further improvements.


BY MELANIE EPP, INDEPENDENT CORRESPONDENT R


uminants play an important role in agricultural production, and the rumen and microbiome within it play a crucial role in helping dairy and beef cattle digest and absorb nutrients from the feed they


ingest. In many parts of the world, ruminants graze on land that is unsuitable for crop production. They convert recalcitrant feed, including waste by-products such as dry distillers grain, and low-quality forage, into a valuable source of protein for human consumption.


Rumen microbial composition For decades now, researchers have been examining the role of the rumen microbiome. Studies reveal that several factors play a role in determining rumen microbial composition and function, including diet, genetics, age, gender and geography. More study is needed, however. “We want to better understand how food is digested and how the animals can harvest energy from that food using


these microbes as the main means of acquiring nutrients,” ex- plains André Luis Neves, one of the paper’s authors. “If you have an imbalance between this complex community, of course, you have negative impacts on health,” says Neves, who is a Research Analyst at Embrapa Dairy Cattle, based in Aracaju, Brazil.”It is important to understand these interactions also because of the health of the host,” he adds. “The microbes are also related to the immune system”. Much work has also been done to see if microbial populations in the rumen can be manipulated through diet or additives like 3-NOP. What is known is that there are many factors that impact the rate and intensity of rumen methanogenesis. Die- tary composition, for one, can impact the volume of measur- able ruminal CH4


produced. High-forage diets lead to more CH4 production than concentrate-rich diets, for example.


“Although it may seem profitable to simply move away from feeding forages to cattle, reduced rumen pH under high- starch diets may contribute to imbalance of the microbial community and fermentation and lead to sub-acute ruminal acidosis,” the paper explains.


▶ GUT HEALTH | DECEMBER 2020 79


PHOTO: MARK PASVEER


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