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Understanding the development and control of stability in the rumen microbiome as a basis for new strategies to reduce methanogenesis – RumenStability

Submission summary

The project will identify and exploit long-term effects of short-duration dietary treatments on
methane production, rumen function and responses to methane mitigation interventions at a later
stage. There will be a focus on manipulations in early life, when the rumen community is
developing, but also work on other diet transitions. The idea is to reduce the cost and effort of
mitigation strategies by reducing the duration and/or quantity of treatment required and/or to
increase the size of responses if treatments have to be reapplied. Whilst earlier studies with young
ruminants have used potent anti-methanogenic compounds, this work focuses on the residual
effects of some of the dramatic diet transitions experienced on-farm, including weaning and
transitions to grazing or high-density finishing diets.
This project addresses effects of management history on the interaction between the host and its
microbiome and on methane production. The ability to identify differences between animals makes
the work highly complementary to existing programs on the effects of host genetics/genomics on
methane production. We will build on recent work showing residual anti-methanogenic effects of
bromochloromethane administered to goat kids. Our primary hypothesis is that the initial microbial
implantation in the rumen influences the microbial ecosystem later in life. One aspect of this is
transfer of the maternal microbiome to offspring, which may contribute to stability of the rumen
microbiome in later life (e.g. reversion to the original community after rumen swapping). We will
extend the work on stability of the rumen microbiome to important diet transitions in growing/adult
animals. We will use state-of-the-art immunology to test our second hypothesis, that differences in
the rumen microbiome in early life affect the development of the host immune response to the
microbiome. We will use a combination of the most current and cost-effective techniques to profile
the short- and long-term responses of the rumen microbiome diversity and activity, focussing
analysis where treatments have shown a clear effect on methane production. We will also address
the need for biomarkers for the establishment of methanogenesis using both targeted (archaeol)
and non-targeted metabolomics with faeces, rumen fluid, urine and blood.
There are five components to the work:
1. New animal studies – investigating long-term effects of previous dietary treatments or
anti-methanogenic additives on methane production. These will include studies around weaning, as
well as in adult life - with commercially relevant treatments;
2. Additional analysis of samples from new/existing studies to help interpret responses. These may
be run by the partner conducting the study or facilitated through exchange of samples.
3. Workshops and short-term visits for training in new methods and standardisation of methodology.
4. Evaluation of the economic viability of strategies identified in the project.
5. Dissemination of results and recommendations to stake-holders and policy makers.

Project coordination

Diego Morgavi (Organisme de recherche)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Ghent University Ghent University
Teagasc Teagasc
University College Dublin University College Dublin
Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology
AgResearch Ltd. AgResearch Ltd.
Aberystwyth University Aberystwyth University
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas

Help of the ANR 156,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2014 - 48 Months

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