Rumen microbiome from steers differing in feed efficiency

PLoS One. 2015 Jun 1;10(6):e0129174. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129174. eCollection 2015.


The cattle rumen has a diverse microbial ecosystem that is essential for the host to digest plant material. Extremes in body weight (BW) gain in mice and humans have been associated with different intestinal microbial populations. The objective of this study was to characterize the microbiome of the cattle rumen among steers differing in feed efficiency. Two contemporary groups of steers (n=148 and n=197) were fed a ration (dry matter basis) of 57.35% dry-rolled corn, 30% wet distillers grain with solubles, 8% alfalfa hay, 4.25% supplement, and 0.4% urea for 63 days. Individual feed intake (FI) and BW gain were determined. Within contemporary group, the four steers within each Cartesian quadrant were sampled (n=16/group) from the bivariate distribution of average daily BW gain and average daily FI. Bacterial 16S rRNA gene amplicons were sequenced from the harvested bovine rumen fluid samples using next-generation sequencing technology. No significant changes in diversity or richness were indicated, and UniFrac principal coordinate analysis did not show any separation of microbial communities within the rumen. However, the abundances of relative microbial populations and operational taxonomic units did reveal significant differences with reference to feed efficiency groups. Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes were the dominant phyla in all ruminal groups, with significant population shifts in relevant ruminal taxa, including phyla Firmicutes and Lentisphaerae, as well as genera Succiniclasticum, Lactobacillus, Ruminococcus, and Prevotella. This study suggests the involvement of the rumen microbiome as a component influencing the efficiency of weight gain at the 16S level, which can be utilized to better understand variations in microbial ecology as well as host factors that will improve feed efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Cattle
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microbiota*
  • Rumen / metabolism
  • Rumen / microbiology*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Bacterial

Grant support

This project was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2011-68004-30214 from the USDA National Institute of Food Agriculture as well as the USDA, Agricultural Research Service.