Impact of high-concentrate feeding and low ruminal pH on methanogens and protozoa in the rumen of dairy cows.

Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada.
Microbial Ecology (Impact Factor: 3.12). 05/2011; 62(1):94-105. DOI: 10.1007/s00248-011-9881-0
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Non-lactating dairy cattle were transitioned to a high-concentrate diet to investigate the effect of ruminal pH suppression, commonly found in dairy cattle, on the density, diversity, and community structure of rumen methanogens, as well as the density of rumen protozoa. Four ruminally cannulated cows were fed a hay diet and transitioned to a 65% grain and 35% hay diet. The cattle were maintained on an high-concentrate diet for 3 weeks before the transition back to an hay diet, which was fed for an additional 3 weeks. Rumen fluid and solids and fecal samples were obtained prior to feeding during weeks 0 (hay), 1, and 3 (high-concentrate), and 4 and 6 (hay). Subacute ruminal acidosis was induced during week 1. During week 3 of the experiment, there was a significant increase in the number of protozoa present in the rumen fluid (P=0.049) and rumen solids (P=0.004), and a significant reduction in protozoa in the rumen fluid in week 6 (P=0.003). No significant effect of diet on density of rumen methanogens was found in any samples, as determined by real-time PCR. Clone libraries were constructed for weeks 0, 3, and 6, and the methanogen diversity of week 3 was found to differ from week 6. Week 3 was also found to have a significantly altered methanogen community structure, compared to the other weeks. Twenty-two unique 16S rRNA phylotypes were identified, three of which were found only during high-concentrate feeding, three were found during both phases of hay feeding, and seven were found in all three clone libraries. The genus Methanobrevibacter comprised 99% of the clones present. The rumen fluid at weeks 0, 3, and 6 of all the animals was found to contain a type A protozoal population. Ultimately, high-concentrate feeding did not significantly affect the density of rumen methanogens, but did alter methanogen diversity and community structure, as well as protozoal density within the rumen of nonlactating dairy cattle. Therefore, it may be necessary to monitor the rumen methanogen and protozoal communities of dairy cattle susceptible to depressed pH when methane abatement strategies are being investigated.

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