Ruminal microbial fermentation plays an essential role in host nutrition, and as a result, the rumen microbiota have been a major focus of research examining bovine feed efficiency. Microbial communities within other sections of the gastrointestinal tract may also be important with regard to feed efficiency, since it is critical to the health and nutrition of the host. The objective of this study was to characterize the microbial communities of the colon among steers differing in feed efficiency. Individual feed intake (FI) and body weight (BW) gain were determined from animals fed the same ration, within two contemporary groups of steers. Four steers from each contemporary group 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 colon content using next-generation sequencing technology. Within the colon content, UniFrac principal coordinate analyses did not detect any separation of microbial communities, and bacterial diversity or richness did not differ between efficiency groups. Relative abundances of microbial populations and operational taxonomic units did reveal significant differences between efficiency groups. The phylum Firmicutes accounted for up to 70% of the populations within all samples, and families Ruminococcaceae and Clostridiaceae were highly abundant. Significant population shifts in taxa were detected, including the families Ruminococcaceae, Lachnospiraceae, and Sphingomonadaceae, and the genera Butyrivibrio, Pseudobutyrivibrio, Prevotella, Faecalibacterium and Oscillospira. This study suggests the association of the colon microbial communities as a factor influencing feed efficiency at the 16S level.
Keywords: 16S rRNA; Colon; Feed efficiency; Microbiome; Operational taxonomic units.