Alterations in the Rumen Liquid-, Particle- and Epithelium-Associated Microbiota of Dairy Cows during the Transition from a Silage- and Concentrate-Based Ration to Pasture in Spring
In spring dairy cows are often gradually transitioned from a silage- and concentrate-based ration (total mixed ration, TMR) to pasture. Rumen microbiota adaptability is a key feature of ruminant survival strategy. However, only little is known on the temporal and spatial microbial alterations involved. This study aims to investigate how the rumen liquid (LAAB), particle (PAAB), and epithelium (EAAB) associated archaea and bacteria are influenced by this nutritional change. A 10-wk trial was performed, including 10 rumen-fistulated dairy cows, equally divided into a pasture- and a confinement- group (PG and CG). The CG stayed on a TMR-based ration, while the PG was gradually transitioned from TMR to pasture (wk 1: TMR-only, wk 2: 3 h/day on pasture, wk 3 & 4: 12 h/day on pasture, wk 5–10: pasture-only). In wk 1, wk 5, and wk 10 samples of solid and liquid rumen contents, and papillae biopsies were collected. The DNA was isolated, and PCR-SSCP and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing analysis were performed. Cluster analysis revealed a higher similarity between LAAB and PAAB, compared to the EAAB, characterized by higher species diversity. At all three locations the microbiota was significantly influenced by the ration change, opposite the generally acknowledged hypothesis that the EAAB remain more consistent throughout dietary changes. Even though the animals in the PG were already on a full-grazing ration for 4–6 days in wk 5, the microbiota at all three locations was significantly different compared to wk 10, suggesting an adaptation period of several days to weeks. This is in line with observations made on animal level, showing a required time for adaptation of 2–3 weeks for production and metabolic variables. A large part of the rumen prokaryote species remained unaltered upon transition to pasture and exhibited a strong host influence, supporting the hypothesis that the rumen microbiota consists of a core and a variable microbiota. For the effect of the location as well as the ration change either very similar or opposite trends among member species of common taxa were observed, demonstrating that microbes that are phylogenetically close may still exhibit substantially different phenotypes and functions.