A systems biology approach reveals differences in the dynamics of colonization and degradation of grass vs. hay by rumen microbes with minor effects of vitamin E supplementation

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Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Article number01456
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 03 Aug 2017
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Increasing the efficiency of utilization of fresh and preserved forage is a key target for ruminant science. Vitamin E is often used as additive to improve product quality but its impact of the rumen function is unknown. This study investigated the successional microbial colonization of ryegrass (GRA) vs. ryegrass hay (HAY) in presence of zero or 50 IU/d supplementary vitamin E, using a rumen simulation technique. A holistic approach was used to link the dynamics of feed degradation with the structure of the liquid-associated (LAB) and solid-associated bacteria (SAB). Results showed that forage colonization by SAB was a tri-phasic process highly affected by the forage conservation method: Early colonization (0–2 h after feeding) by rumen microbes was 2× faster for GRA than HAY diets and dominated by Lactobacillus and Prevotella which promoted increased levels of lactate (+56%) and ammonia (+18%). HAY diets had lower DM degradation (-72%) during this interval being Streptococcus particularly abundant. During secondary colonization (4–8 h) the SAB community increased in size and decreased in diversity as the secondary colonizers took over (Pseudobutyrivibrio) promoting the biggest differences in the metabolomics profile between diets. Secondary colonization was 3× slower for HAY vs. GRA diets, but this delay was compensated by a greater bacterial diversity (+197 OTUs) and network complexity resulting in similar feed degradations. Tertiary colonization (>8 h) consisted of a slowdown in the colonization process and simplification of the bacterial network. This slowdown was less evident for HAY diets which had higher levels of tertiary colonizers (Butyrivibrio and Ruminococcus) and may explain the higher DM degradation (+52%) during this interval. The LAB community was particularly active during the early fermentation of GRA and during the late fermentation for HAY diets indicating that the availability of nutrients in the liquid phase reflects the dynamics of feed degradation. Vitamin E supplementation had minor effects but promoted a simplification of the LAB community and a slight acceleration in the SAB colonization sequence which could explain the higher DM degradation during the secondary colonization. Our findings suggest that when possible, grass should be fed instead of hay, in order to accelerate feed utilization by rumen microbes


  • colonization, grass, hay, rumen fermentation, rumen microbiome, plant degradation, vitamin E