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UW Research Seeks Whether Manipulating Rumen Microbes Can Increase Feed Efficiency

April 12, 2016
head portrait of woman
Associate Professor Kristi Cammack leads a UW study to determine if microbes in the rumen can improve beef cattle feed efficiency. (UW Photo)

University of Wyoming scientists will use a $500,000 National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to study if microbes in the rumen could be influenced to improve beef cattle feed efficiency.

The four-year study, led by Associate Professor Kristi Cammack in the Department of Animal Science, will examine the effect of microbes in the rumen on calf performance. The study will include collaborators at the University of Missouri and Virginia Tech. The first two years will be animal trials and data analysis, and will include DNA testing the last two years.

Feed is the greatest cost for beef producers, Cammack says, and improving feed efficiency is important to the sustainability of beef production. Better feed efficiency in beef cattle could help a producer’s bottom line and make more efficient use of grazing lands.

“Our aim is to determine how a calf’s genetic background, mother and birth environment affect the microbes in the rumen, and how those microbes relate to the calf’s performance in later life,” she says.

Cammack will use two biologically different breeds -- Angus and Charolais -- recognized for differences in growth rates and yield to determine the genetic contribution of rumen microbes. Her research will test the breed differences, the postnatal effects and the perinatal effects.

Rumen samples will be used for DNA sequencing to determine microbial composition and fatty acid analysis.

“This information will be used to determine how the rumen microbes may be influenced to improve feed efficiency,” she says.

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