Rumen Health Technical Guide

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Rumen Development


A mature microbial ecosystem is necessary to ensure the full capacity to digest solid feed.

When a young ruminant is born, its rumen is considered a sterile environment that contains no bacteria or other microbial life. The young ruminant is naturally exposed to different microbes through the dam’s birth canal and vagina, saliva, skin and feces.

  • Anaerobic bacteria appear a few hours after birth
  • Cellulolytic bacteria and methanogenic archaea appear at 2-4 days of age
  • Anaerobic fungi colonize the rumen during the second week
  • Ciliate protozoa begin to be established only during the third week.

 

Pre-ruminant colonization sequence of rumen microflora (lamb model) 1ReferenceView allFonty G., Senaud J. , Jouany J.P. , and Gouet P. 1987.
Establishment of the microflora and anaerobic fungi in the rumen of lambs. J. Gen. Microbiol. 133:18351843.
 2ReferenceView allChaucheyras-Durand F., Ossa F.
The rumen microbiome: composition, abundance, diversity and new investigative tools. Prof Anim Sci. 2014; 30:1-12.
 3ReferenceView allJami E., Israel A., Kotser A., and Mizrahi I. 2013.
Exploring the bovine rumen bacterial community from birth to adulthood. ISME J. 7(6):1069-79.
 4ReferenceView allLi R.W., Connor E.E., Li C., Vi Baldwin R.L. and Sparks M.E. 2012.
Characterization of the rumen microbiota of pre-ruminant calves using metagenomic tools. Environ. Microbiol. 14(1):129-39.
 5ReferenceView allMinato H., Otsuka M., Shirasaka S., Itabashi H., Mitsumori M. 1992.
Colonization of microorganisms in the rumen of young calves. J Gen Appl Microbiol 38: 447-456.
 6ReferenceView allRey M., Enjalbert F., Combes S., Cauquil L., Bouchez O., and Monteils V. 2014.
Establishment of ruminal bacterial community in dairy calves from birth to weaning is sequential. J. Appl. Microbiol. 116(2):245-57.
 7ReferenceView allMalmuthuge N., Griebel P.J., and Le L. Guan. 2014.
Taxonomic identifiation of commensal bacteria associated with the mucosa and digesta throughout the gastrointestinal tracts of preweaned calves. Appl Environ. Microbiol. 80(6):2021-8.
 8ReferenceView allSteele M. A., Malmuthuge N. and Guan L. L. 2015.
Dietary Factors Inflencing the Development of the Ruminant Gastrointestinal Tract. Cornell Nutrition Conference

The separation may occur early; the newborn ruminant naturally undergoes stress, suppressing immunity and delaying rumen development.
The transition from milk to solids can also occur when microbial colonization is incomplete 3ReferenceView allJami E., Israel A., Kotser A., and Mizrahi I. 2013.
Exploring the bovine rumen bacterial community from birth to adulthood. ISME J. 7(6):1069-79.
and result in frequent digestive disorders in the young animal.

Diversity of microbial communities in the rumen depends largely on diet composition. 9ReferenceView allFonty G., Gouet P., Jouany J.P., and Senaud J. 1983.
Ecological factors determining establishment of cellulolytic bacteria and protozoa in the rumen of meroxenic lambs. J. Gen. Microbiol. 129:213-223.

The development of the rumen (weight, wall thickness and papillae number, integrity and length) is highly dependent on the level of complexity of its microbiota. Grain feeding increases the concentration of butyric acid in the rumen, which stimulates papillae growth.

A mature microbial ecosystem is necessary to ensure the full capacity to digest solid feed. Optimal animal growth and performance relies on:

  • Rapid establishment of microbial populations,
  • Development of an abundant and functional microbiota,
  • Stimulation of intake and digestive activity,
  • Maximizing the absorptive capacity of the rumen wall.
Immature rumen wall with poorly developed papillae
Immature rumen wall with poorly developed papillae
Mature rumen wall with well-developed papillae
Mature rumen wall with well-developed papillae