Cow gut DNA study could help improve meat and dairy

Tuesday, August 13, 2019
University of Edinburgh

Scientists discovered thousands of microbes in cows’ stomachs which could improve meat and dairy yields, and cows’ health.

Researchers from the Roslin Institute, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen analysed the rumen contents of hundreds of cows and discovered thousands of bacteria, as well as archaea – a separate group of single-celled organism. The discovery could improve meat and dairy yields, and cows’ health.

The findings build the clearest picture yet of how the microbes in a cow’s rumen - the first of its four stomachs - help cattle to digest and extract energy from their food.

Pinpointing which microbes are essential for livestock wellbeing and food production could inform future breeding programmes.

Greenhouse gas emissions

The microscopic organisms provide cattle with nutrients and energy, contribute to the animals' health and, as a bi-product, release methane which is a concern for global warming.

The latest research follows on from a 2017 study by the same team which linked DNA analysis to food digestion, animal health and greenhouse gas emissions.

Thousands of newly found microbes

The team used the latest DNA technologies to obtain the complete genetic makeup of several new bacterial species.

They studied samples from 283 cows, identified almost 5,000 new strains of microbe and more than 2,000 novel species - microbes that previously no-one knew existed.

Hundreds of thousands of novel enzymes, whose instructions are encoded in the DNA, may have potential uses as biofuels, or in the biotechnology industries.

The study is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

...follow the link to read the article in full on the University of Edinburgh website...