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Microbiome Clusters Disclose Physiologic Variances in Dairy Cows Challenged by Calving and Lipopolysaccharides

Dairy cows respond individually to stressful situations, even under similar feeding and housing conditions. The phenotypic responsiveness might trace back to their microbiome and its interactions with the host. This long-term study investigated the effects of calving, lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation, and l-carnitine supplementation on fecal bacteria and metabolites, dairy cow milk production, health, energy metabolism, and blood metabolites. Fifty-four multiparous Holstein dairy cows were examined over a defined period of life (168 days). The obtained data allowed a holistic analysis combining microbiome data such as 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and fecal targeted metabolome (188 metabolites) with host parameters. The conducted analyses allowed the definition of three enterotype-like microbiome clusters in dairy cows which could be linked to the community diversity and dynamics over time. The microbiome clusters were discovered to be treatment independent, governed by Bifidobacterium (C-Bifi), unclassified (uncl.) Clostridiales (C-Clos), and unclassified Spirochaetaceae (C-Spiro). Animals between the clusters varied significantly in terms of illnesses, body weight, microbiome composition, and milk and blood parameters. C-Bifi animals were healthier and leaner with a less diverse but dynamic microbiome. C-Spiro animals were heavier, but the diversity of the static microbiome was higher. This pioneering study uncovered microbiome clusters in dairy cows, each contributing differently to animal health and productive performance and with a crucial role of Bifidobacterium. IMPORTANCE The health of dairy cows has to be carefully considered for sustainable and efficient animal production. The microbiome of animals plays an important role in the host's nutrient supply and regulation of immune functions. We show that a certain composition of the fecal microbiome, called microbiome clusters, can be linked to an animal's health at challenging life events such as calving and inflammation. Cows with a specific set of bacteria have coped better under these stressors than have others. This novel information has great potential for implementing microbiome clusters as a trait for sustainable breeding strategies.

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