Characterization of rumen bacterial diversity and fermentation parameters in concentrate fed cattle with and without forage


Tim A. McAllister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre, PO Box 3000, Lethbridge, AB, T1J 4B1 Canada. E-mail:


Aims:  To determine the effects of the removal of forage in high-concentrate diets on rumen fermentation conditions and rumen bacterial populations using culture-independent methods.

Methods and Results:  Detectable bacteria and fermentation parameters were measured in the solid and liquid fractions of digesta from cattle fed two dietary treatments, high concentrate (HC) and high concentrate without forage (HCNF). Comparison of rumen fermentation conditions showed that duration of time spent below pH 5·2 and rumen osmolality were higher in the HCNF treatment. Simpson’s index of 16S PCR-DGGE images showed a greater diversity of dominant species in the HCNF treatment. Real-time qPCR showed populations of Fibrobacter succinogenes (= 0·01) were lower in HCNF than HC diets. Ruminococcus spp., F. succinogenes and Selenomonas ruminantium were at higher ( 0·05) concentrations in the solid vs the liquid fraction of digesta regardless of diet.

Conclusions:  The detectable bacterial community structure in the rumen is highly diverse. Reducing diet complexity by removing forage increased bacterial diversity despite the associated reduction in ruminal pH being less conducive for fibrolytic bacterial populations. Quantitative PCR showed that removal of forage from the diet resulted in a decline in the density of some, but not all fibrolytic bacterial species examined.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  Molecular techniques such as DGGE and qPCR provide an increased understanding of the impacts of dietary changes on the nature of rumen bacterial populations, and conclusions derived using these techniques may not match those previously derived using traditional laboratory culturing techniques.