An analysis of the ruminal bacterial microbiota in West African Dwarf sheep fed grass- and tree-based diets




To measure the impact of supplementing a forage diet with tree-based browse on the ruminal bacterial communities of Nigerian West African Dwarf (WAD) sheep.

Methods and Results

Fifteen WAD sheep were fed a control diet of forage (Panicum maximum), with 12 animals shifted in groups of three to one of four browse-supplemented diets (Albizia saman, Bridelia micrantha, Ficus sur, or Gmelina arborea). These browse plants were shown in a concurrent but separate study to be reasonably nutritious (based on chemical composition and fibre constituents) and nontoxic (based on tannin, phytate, saponin, alkaloid and oxalate levels). Rumen liquids and solids for DNA extraction were collected via intubation from two animals in each group before and after dietary shift. Bacterial 16S rRNA gene regions V6-V8 were sequenced by 454 pyrosequencing. All communities were highly diverse and dominated by the phyla Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Tenericutes, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria. All communities shared members of the genera Butryivibrio, Prevotella and Ruminococcus. Our analysis defined a core sets of bacteria shared by all animals, forage-fed animals and browse-fed animals. Community structure shifted dramatically in animals fed A. saman or G. arborea.


The impact of tree-based browse on the ruminal bacterial community of Nigerian WAD sheep varies by browse species, likely due to differences in browse composition.

Significance and Impact of the Study

Our study describes the first neotropical small ruminant bacterial microbiome and supports diet supplementation with specific tree-based browse for WAD sheep.