Effect of cattle breed and basal diet on digestibility, rumen bacterial communities, and eating and rumination activity

Pedro H.V. Carvalho, Ana C.J. Pinto, Danilo D. Millen, Tara L. Felix

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11 Scopus citations


The objectives of this study were to compare ruminal total tract digestibility, bacterial communities, and eating and rumination activity between Holstein and Angus steers fed grain- or forage-based diets. Six Holstein steers (average body weight [BW] = 483 ± 23 kg) and six Angus steers (average BW = 507 ± 29 kg), previously fitted with rumen cannulae, were fed in a crossover design with a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of four treatments: 1) Holsteins fed a grain-based diet, 2) Holsteins fed a forage-based diet, 3) Angus fed a grain-based diet, and 4) Angus fed a forage-based diet. Each period was 35 d with 26 d of diet adaptation and 9 d of sample collection. On days 1 and 2 of collection, feeding activity was recorded for 48 h. On day 3, rumen contents were sampled to measure ruminal pH at 0, 3, 6, 12, and 18 h after feeding. A portion of the strained ruminal fluid was subsampled at 0, 3, and 6 h for volatile fatty acids (VFA) analysis. Rumen contents were subsampled at 3 h for analysis of bacterial communities. From day 4 to 8, total fecal excretion, feed, and refusals samples were collected and analyzed for dry matter (DM), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), and starch. On days 8 and 9 (0 and 3 h post-feeding, respectively), total reticulorumen evacuation was conducted and contents were weighed. Data were analyzed using the MIXED procedures in SAS (v9.4 SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC). Repeated measures were used to analyze changes in ruminal pH and VFA over time. There were no interactions of diet × breed (P ≥ 0.07). While the main effects of diet were expected, unique to these data is the fact that bacterial diversity and richness were reduced (P < 0.01) in cattle fed grain-based diets. There was no main effect (P > 0.34) of breed on total tract DM, organic matter, and starch digestibility, but Angus cattle had greater (P = 0.01) NDF digestibility than Holsteins. The increased NDF digestibility may be associated with a numerical (P = 0.08) increased numbers of bacterial species in Angus steers compared with Holstein steers. Holstein steers also spent more time (P ≤ 0.05) ruminating than Angus steers. There was no effect (P > 0.80) of breed on reticulorumen content at feeding time; however, Holstein steers had greater (P = 0.04) reticulorumen content on a wet basis 3 h post-feeding. Although Holstein steers spent more time ruminating, Angus steers were better able to digest NDF when compared with Holsteins, regardless of basal diet, and this improvement may be related to changes in bacterial communities in the rumen or to rumination activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberskaa114
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 25 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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