Ruminal Fermentation Pattern, Bacterial Community Composition, and Nutrient Digestibility of Nellore Cattle Submitted to Either Nutritional Restriction or Intake of Concentrate Feedstuffs Prior to Adaptation Period
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Beef cattle are key contributors to meat production and represent critical drivers of the global agricultural economy. In Brazil, beef cattle are reared in tropical pastures and finished in feedlot systems. The introduction of cattle into a feedlot includes a period where they adapt to high-concentrate diets. This adaptation period is critical to the success of incoming cattle, as they must adjust to both a new diet and environment. Incoming animals are typically reared on a variety of diets, ranging from poor quality grasses to grazing systems supplemented with concentrate feedstuffs. These disparate pre-adaptation diets present a challenge, and here, we sought to understand this process by evaluating the adaptation of Nellore calves raised on either grazing on poor quality grasses (restriction diet) or grazing systems supplemented with concentrate (concentrate diet). Given that nutrient provisioning from the diet is the sole responsibility of the ruminal microbial community, we measured the impact of this dietary shift on feeding behavior, ruminal fermentation pattern, ruminal bacterial community composition (BCC), and total tract digestibility. Six cannulated Nellore bulls were randomly assigned to two 3 × 3 Latin squares, and received a control, restriction, or concentrate diet. All cohorts were then fed the same adaptation diet to mimic a standard feedlot. Ruminal BCC was determined using Illumina-based 16S rRNA amplicon community sequencing. We found that concentrate-fed cattle had greater dry matter intake (P < 0.01) than restricted animals. Likewise, cattle fed concentrate had greater (P = 0.02) propionate concentration during the adaptation phase than control animals and a lower Shannon’s diversity (P = 0.02), relative to the restricted animals. We also found that these animals had lower (P = 0.04) relative abundances of Fibrobacter succinogenes when compared to control animals during the pre-adaptation phase and lower abundances of bacteria within the Succinivibrio during the finishing phase, when compared to the control animals (P = 0.05). Finally, we found that animals previously exposed to concentrate were able to better adapt to high-concentrate diets when compared to restricted animals. Our study presents the first investigation of the impact of pre-adaptation diet on ruminal BCC and metabolism of bulls during the adaptation period. We suggest that these results may be useful for planning adaptation protocols of bulls entering the feedlot system and thereby improve animal production.
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