Rumen bacterial community structure impacts feed efficiency in beef cattle

Henry A. Paz, Kristin E. Hales, James E. Wells, Larry A. Kuehn, Harvey C. Freetly, Elaine D. Berry, Michael D. Flythe, Matthew L. Spangler, Samodha C. Fernando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The importance of the rumen microbiota on nutrient cycling to the animal is well recognized; however, our understanding of the influence of the rumen microbiome composition on feed efficiency is limited. The rumen micro-biomes of two large animal cohorts (125 heifers and 122 steers) were characterized to identify specific bacterial members (operational taxonomic units [OTUs]) associated with feed efficiency traits (ADFI, ADG, and G:F) in beef cattle. The heifer and steer cohorts were fed a forage-based diet and a concentrate-based diet, respectively. A rumen sample was obtained from each animal via esophageal tubing and bacterial community composition was determined through 16S rRNA gene sequencing of the V4 region. Based on a regression approach that used individual performance measures, animals were classified into divergent feed efficiency groups. Within cohort, an extreme set of 16 animals from these divergent groups was selected as a discovery population to identify differentially abundant OTUs across the rumen bacterial communities. The remaining samples from each cohort were selected to perform forward stepwise regressions using the differentially abundant OTUs as explanatory variables to distinguish predictive OTUs for the feed efficiency traits and to quantify the OTUs collective impact on feed efficiency phenotypes. OTUs belonging to the families Prevotellaceae and Victivallaceae were present across models for heifers, whereas OTUs belonging to the families Prevotellaceae and Lachnospiraceae were present across models for steers. Within the heifer cohort, models explained 19.3%, 25.3%, and 19.8% of the variation for ADFI, ADG, and G:F, respectively. Within the steer cohort, models explained 27.7%, 32.5%, and 26.9% of the variation for ADFI, ADG, and G:F, respectively. Overall, this study suggests a substantial role of the rumen microbiome on feed efficiency responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1045-1058
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018


  • Beef cattle
  • Feed efficiency
  • Rumen microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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