Differences in the Microbial Community and Resistome Structures of Feces from Preweaned Calves and Lactating Dairy Cows in Commercial Dairy Herds

Bradd J. Haley, Seon Woo Kim, Serajus Salaheen, Ernest Hovingh, Jo Ann S. Van Kessel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Preweaned dairy calves and lactating dairy cows are known reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To further understand the differences in the resistomes and microbial communities between the two, we sequenced the metagenomes of fecal composite samples from preweaned dairy calves and lactating dairy cows on 17 commercial dairy farms (n = 34 samples). Results indicated significant differences in the structures of the microbial communities (analysis of similarities [ANOSIM] R = 0.81, p = 0.001) and resistomes (ANOSIM R = 0.93 to 0.96, p = 0.001) between the two age groups. Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria were the predominant members of the communities, but when the groups were compared, Bacteroidetes and Verrumicrobia were significantly more abundant in calf fecal composite samples, whereas Firmicutes, Spirochaetes, Deinococcus-Thermus, Lentisphaerae, Planctomycetes, Chlorofexi, and Saccharibacteria-(TM7) were more abundant in lactating cow samples. Diverse suites of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) were identified in all samples, with the most frequently detected being assigned to tetracycline and aminoglycoside resistance. When the two groups were compared, ARGs were significantly more abundant in composite fecal samples from calves than those from lactating cows (calf median ARG abundance = 1.8 × 10 ARG/16S ribosomal RNA [rRNA], cow median ARG abundance = 1.7 × 10-1 ARG/16S rRNA) and at the antibiotic resistance class level, the relative abundance of tetracycline, trimethoprim, aminoglycoside, macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin B, β-lactam, and phenicol resistance genes was significantly higher in calf samples than in cow samples. Results of this study indicate that composite feces from preweaned calves harbor different bacterial communities and resistomes than composite feces from lactating cows, with a greater abundance of resistance genes detected in preweaned calf feces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)494-503
Number of pages10
JournalFoodborne pathogens and disease
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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