“Beefed up” methods to study prebiotics

This guest post is written by Wade Abbott, PhD, a research scientist at AAFC Lethbridge focused on agricultural glycomics, functional genomics, carbohydrate modification and the gut microbiome in livestock.

The cattle industry is the largest source of farm cash receipts in Canada and contributes $18 billion to Canada’s economyAs the world’s third largest producer and exporter of high-quality beef and cattle, Canada’s beef industry is an essential component of global food security and the Canadian economy. To facilitate its ongoing efforts towards sustainable intensification and to shrink the environmental footprint of beef production, the industry has historically relied on technologies ranging from improved animal health management, feed processing and diet formulation, feed additives, and growth implants. Improved understanding of the respiratory microbiome, gut microbiome, and gut-lung axis will support researchers in their search for additional strategies to further enhance animal health and productivity and contribute to continued improvements in the sustainability of Canadian beef production.   

Preventable diseases and inefficient feed conversion present significant costs to the bottom line of Canada’s beef industryIn healthy cattle, beneficial microbes and host immunity keep pathogens in check and assist with digestion. The genetic make-up of both beneficial and pathogenic microbes is called a microbiomeThe gut and lung microbiomes are key players in the fight against pathogens and support the cattle immune system. New research also suggests the gut and lung microbiomes do not operate independently and can even influence each other through the gut-lung axis. That means that rumen acidosis may impact lung health, or BRD could impact gut health. If that’s the case, a more holistic approach to preventing or treating animal disease may be beneficial. Researchers are working to develop therapeutic tools that can strengthen the integrity of microbiomes.   Continue reading

Exploring potential benefits of prebiotic, and synbiotic use in cattle

Prebiotics are nutrient sources that favor the growth of beneficial bacteria within the host animal, while probiotics are live cultures of bacteria that are fed to improve digestive system health. Using a combination of probiotic and prebiotic strategies to achieve a healthy outcome is referred to as synbiotics. There is some evidence that suggests that the use probiotics and prebiotics may improve the health of monogastrics, but their potential benefits for ruminants are not well understood. Short- and long-term outcomes of these treatments for ruminant productivity, metabolic efficiency, feed digestibility and food safety have not yet been assessed.

Research currently underway and funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster will Continue reading