Ruminants microbial consortium is responsible for ruminal fermentation, a process which converts fibrous feeds unsuitable for human consumption into desirable dairy and meat products, begins to establish soon after birth. However, it undergoes a significant transition when digestion shifts from the lower intestine to ruminal fermentation. We hypothesised that delaying the transition from a high milk diet to an exclusively solid food diet (weaning) would lessen the severity of changes in the gastrointestinal microbiome during this transition. β-diversity of ruminal and faecal microbiota shifted rapidly in early-weaned calves (6 weeks), whereas, a more gradual shift was observed in late-weaned calves (8 weeks) up to weaning. Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes were the most abundant ruminal phyla in pre- and post-weaned calves, respectively. Yet, the relative abundance of these phyla remained stable in faeces (P ≥ 0.391). Inferred gene families assigned to KEGG pathways revealed an increase in ruminal carbohydrate metabolism (P ≤ 0.009) at 9, compared to 5 weeks. Conversely, carbohydrate metabolism in faeces declined (P ≤ 0.002) following a change in weaning status (i.e., the shift from pre- to post-weaning). Our results indicate weaning later facilitates a more gradual shift in microbiota and could potentially explain the negative effects of early-weaning associated with feeding a high-plane of pre-weaning nutrition.
Scientific Reports – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 15, 2017
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