Shift of Feeding Strategies from Grazing to Different Forage Feeds Reshapes the Rumen Microbiota To Improve the Ability of Tibetan Sheep (Ovis aries) To Adapt to the Cold Season

Xiongxiong Cui, Zhaofeng Wang, Penghui Guo, Fuhou Li, Shenghua Chang, Tianhai Yan, Huiru Zheng, Fujiang Hou

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The dynamics of ruminant-rumen microbiome symbiosis associated with feeding strategies in the cold season were examined. Twelve pure-grazing adult Tibetan sheep (Ovis aries) (18 months old; body weight, 40 ± 0.23 kg) were transferred from natural pasture to two indoor feedlots and fed either a native-pasture diet (NPF group) or an oat hay diet (OHF group) ( n  = 6 per treatment), and then the flexibility of rumen microbiomes to adapt to these compositionally different feeding strategies was examined. Principal-coordinate analysis and similarity analysis indicated that the rumen bacterial composition correlated with altered feeding strategies. Microbial diversity was higher in the grazing group than in those fed with native pasture and an oat hay diet ( P < 0.05). The dominant microbial phyla were Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, and the core bacterial taxa comprised mostly (42.49% of shared operational taxonomic units [OTUs]) Ruminococcaceae (408 taxa), Lachnospiraceae (333 taxa), and Prevotellaceae (195 taxa), which were relatively stable across different treatments. Greater relative abundances of Tenericutes at the phylum level, Pseudomonadales at the order level, Mollicutes at the class level, and Pseudomonas at the genus level were observed in a grazing period than in the other two treatments (NPF and OHF) ( P  < 0.05). In the OHF group, due to the high nutritional quality of the forage, Tibetan sheep can produce high concentrations of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and NH 3-N by increasing the relative abundances of key bacteria in the rumen, such as Lentisphaerae, Negativicutes, Selenomonadales, Veillonellaceae, Ruminococcus 2, Quinella, Bacteroidales RF16 group, and Prevotella 1, to aid in nutrients degradation and energy utilization. The levels of beneficial bacteria were increased by the oat hay diet; these microbiotas are likely to help improve and maintain host health and metabolic ability in Tibetan sheep to adapt to cold environments. The rumen fermentation parameters were significantly influenced by feeding strategy in the cold season ( P < 0.05). Overall, the results of this study demonstrate the strong effect of feeding strategies on the rumen microbiota of Tibetan sheep, which provided a new idea for the nutrition regulation of Tibetan sheep grazing in the cold season on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. IMPORTANCE During the cold season, like other high-altitude mammals, Tibetan sheep have to adapt their physiological and nutritional strategies, as well as the structure and function of their rumen microbial community, to the seasonal variation of lower food availability and quality. This study focused on the changes and adaptability in the rumen microbiota of Tibetan sheep when they adapted from grazing to a high-efficiency feeding strategy during the cold season by analyzing the rumen microbiota of Tibetan sheep raised under the different management systems, and it shows the linkages among the rumen core and pan-bacteriomes, nutrient utilization, and rumen short-chain fatty acids. The findings from this study suggest that the feeding strategies potentially contribute to variations in the pan-rumen bacteriome, together with the core bacteriome. Fundamental knowledge on the rumen microbiomes and their roles in nutrient utilization furthers our understanding of how rumen microbial adaptation to harsh environments may function in hosts. The facts obtained from the present trial clarified the possible mechanisms of the positive effects of feeding strategy on nutrient utilization and rumen fermentation in harsh environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0281622
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Early online date27 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 27 Feb 2023


  • Tibetan sheep
  • cold season
  • grazing
  • microbiota
  • feeding strategy
  • Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau


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