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Ruminal Microbiota and Fermentation in Response to Dietary Protein and Energy Levels in Weaned Lambs

Feed Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Key Laboratory of Feed Biotechnology of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Beijing 100081, China
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Animals 2020, 10(1), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010109
Received: 9 December 2019 / Revised: 3 January 2020 / Accepted: 8 January 2020 / Published: 9 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Small Ruminant Nutrition and Metabolism)
Ruminants, such as sheep, are economically important because they contribute to digesting and converting plant materials into edible meat and milk for humans to consume. An adequate plane of nutrients, such as energy and protein, is essential for rumen development and growth. However, sheep production is mostly affected by inadequate nutrition in rural areas of China. As one of the most prolific and perennial estrus breeds in China, Hu sheep has huge potential for catering to the growing meat demands of the market and consumers. In this study, the effects of dietary energy and protein levels on growth performance, microbial diversity, and physiological properties of the rumen in weaned lambs were evaluated. The results showed that a low dietary energy level restrained growth performance and changed the microbiota and associated ruminal fermentation phenotypes of lambs. However, protein had a minor effect. The findings are of great significance for promoting rumen development and establishing the optimal nutrient supply strategy for lambs.
Supplying sufficient nutrients, such as dietary energy and protein, has a great effect on the growth and rumen development of ruminants. This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of dietary energy and protein levels on growth performance, microbial diversity, and structural and physiological properties of the rumen in weaned lambs. A total of 64 two-month-old Hu lambs were randomly allotted to 2 × 2 factorial arrangements with four replicates and with four lambs (half male and half female) in each replicate. The first factor was two levels of dietary metabolizable energy (ME) density (ME = 10.9 MJ/Kg or 8.6 MJ/Kg), and the second factor was two levels of dietary crude protein (CP) content (CP = 15.7% or 11.8%). The trial lasted for 60 days. A low dietary energy level restrained the growth performance of lambs (p < 0.05). The ruminal concentration of acetate and the ratio of acetate to propionate increased but the propionate concentration decreased significantly with the low energy diet. However, the rumen morphology was not affected by the diet energy and protein levels. Moreover, a low energy diet increased ruminal bacterial diversity but reduced the abundance of the phylum Proteobacteria (p < 0.05) and genus Succinivibrionaceae_uncultured (p < 0.05), which was associated with the change in ruminal fermentation phenotypes. By indicator species analysis, we found three indicator OTUs in the high energy group (Succinivibrionaceae_uncultured, Veillonellaceae_unclassified and Veillonellaceae_uncultured (p < 0.01)) and two indicator OTUs in the low energy group (Bacteroidales_norank and Lachnospiraceae_uncultured (p < 0.01)). In conclusion, these findings added new dimensions to our understanding of the diet effect on rumen microbial community and fermentation response, and are of great significance for establishing the optimal nutrient supply strategy for lambs. View Full-Text
Keywords: lambs; growth performance; microbial diversity; rumen fermentation; rumen morphology lambs; growth performance; microbial diversity; rumen fermentation; rumen morphology
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Lv, X.; Cui, K.; Qi, M.; Wang, S.; Diao, Q.; Zhang, N. Ruminal Microbiota and Fermentation in Response to Dietary Protein and Energy Levels in Weaned Lambs. Animals 2020, 10, 109.

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