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The Microbiome: The Next Big Frontier in Cattle Improvement

Beef and dairy production have made tremendous strides improving the health and productivity of cattle through genetics, nutrition, management practices, immunizations and medications. Now, researchers are focusing on yet another potential area of opportunity: the microbiome, and how it can be influenced even before birth.

What is the microbiome? It is a collection of tiny organisms – such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and their genes – that live together in a body system. In cattle production, we tend to focus a lot on the rumen microbiome, because we know how important those rumen microbes are to promoting efficient and healthy digestion that subsequently impacts animal performance in both beef and dairy cattle.

But researchers at North Dakota State University (NDSA) are exploring how the microbiomes of other body systems may also influence cattle performance. Every physical body system has a microbiome, and the NDSU researchers note that the microbiota of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and reproductive tracts have long been recognized as important to cattle health and productivity.

February 7, 2024


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