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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Cell Wall Biology and Utilization Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #358537

Research Project: Investigating Microbial, Digestive, and Animal Factors to Increase Dairy Cow Performance and Nutrient Use Efficiency

Location: Cell Wall Biology and Utilization Research

Title: Microbiome – Improving production and controlling disease

item Bickhart, Derek

Submitted to: Proceedings of American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/22/2018
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Most of the components of cattle milk come from the activity of bacteria in the rumen. Producers have been interested in influencing these microbes to improve production, but the process is difficult. Recent research suggests that we can harness rumen microbes to prevent cattle disease and improve milk production.

Technical Abstract: Complex plant polymers, such as cellulose, are difficult to break-down and provide little nutritional value if not further processed. Ruminants, such as cattle, sheep, and goats, have developed a specialized digestive system that is capable of degrading these complex polysaccharides and to turn them into small-chain, or volatile, fatty acids (VFA) and crude microbial protein (CMP) that are absorbed by the animal. The key players of ruminant digestion consist of members of all three kingdoms of life. The most numerous occupants of the rumen are from the Bacterial superkingdom, and they comprise approximately 60% of the total living biomass in the rumen lumen (Henderson et al., 2015). Members of the Archaeal superkingdom are also present in the rumen and are mostly comprised of species that produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Finally, a large proportion (20-50%) of the living biomass in the rumen is comprised of microscopic Eukaryotes consisting of protists and fungal species (Brownlee, 1989; Newbold et al., 1997). Each of the microscopic components of the rumen occupy a unique metabolic niche and many of the digestive pathways that they contribute have been very well-characterized by ruminant microbiologists in the past several decades (Bergman, 1990). While we are able to derive a larger picture of the activity of microbes in the rumen, there is substantial difficulty in fully characterizing all of the occupants of the rumen and predicting their proliferation in response to stimulus.