Growth, health, rumen fermentation, and bacterial community of Holstein calves fed Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG during the preweaning stage1

J Anim Sci. 2019 May 30;97(6):2598-2608. doi: 10.1093/jas/skz126.


The aim of this study was to determine if feeding Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (GG, ATCC 53013) to neonatal calves would alter their growth, health, rumen fermentation, and bacterial community composition during the preweaning stage; we hypothesized that it would. Twenty-four male Holstein calves were blocked and randomly assigned to 1 of 2 treatment groups: 1) untreated control (CON), or 2) treated with 1 × 1010 cfu/d of a GG suspension (GG). Calves received GG daily, mixed with the milk replacer in the morning feed for 6 wk. Starter and alfalfa hay intakes, as well as feces and respiratory scores, were recorded daily, while body weight and structures were measured weekly. Blood, rumen fluid, and feces samples were collected, from which relevant indicators were detected. The results showed that the administration of GG significantly increased voluntary starter intake (P = 0.023) and ADG (P = 0.035) of the calves. The fecal score (P = 0.018) was lower and the β-hydroxybutyric concentration in the plasma tended to increase (P = 0.092) in calves treated with GG. The pH of the rumen fluid in calves fed GG was lower (P = 0.007), which might be attributable to the tendency (P = 0.083) for total volatile fatty acids concentration to increase. Administration of GG significantly increased the amylase, protease activity, and the microbial protein concentrations (P = 0.043, P = 0.036, and P = 0.044, respectively) in the rumen fluids. Furthermore, GG treatment altered the dominant bacteria order and relative abundance of the bacteria families in the rumen fluids. The microbial diversity indices were significantly affected by GG administration. In conclusion, the neonatal calves fed GG before weaning increased their voluntary starter intake and growth performance, improved the rumen fermentation, and regulated the pattern to normally increase the propionate and butyrate concentrations. Administration of GG also diversified the bacterial community composition in the rumen, and regulated the balance of rumen and intestinal microorganisms. These results indicated that feeding calves GG were beneficial to the rumen development and early weaning.

Keywords: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG; calves; growth; rumen bacterial community.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Butyrates / analysis
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / analysis*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Fermentation
  • Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus*
  • Male
  • Propionates / analysis
  • Rumen / metabolism
  • Weaning


  • Butyrates
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Propionates