Table_3_The Liquid Diet Composition Affects the Fecal Bacterial Community in Pre-weaning Dairy Calves.XLSX
Feeding a liquid diet to the newborn calf has considerable implications for developing the intestinal microbiota, as its composition can shift the population to a highly adapted microbiota. The present work evaluated 15 Holstein calves individually housed and fed one of the three liquid diets: I – whole milk (n = 5), II – milk replacer (22.9% CP; 16.2% fat; diluted to 14% solids; n = 5) and III – acidified whole milk to pH 4.5 with formic acid (n = 5). All animals received 6 L of liquid diet, divided into two meals, being weaned at week 8 of life. Calves also had free access to water and starter concentrate. After weaning, all calves were grouped on pasture, fed with starter concentrate, and hay ad libitum. The fecal samples were collected at birth (0) and at weeks 1, 2, 4, 8, and 10 of life. The bacterial community was assessed the through sequencing of the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene on the Illumina MiSeq platform and analyzed using the DADA2 pipeline. Diversity indices were not affected by the liquid diets, but by age (P < 0.001) with weeks 1 and 2 presenting lower diversity, evenness, and richness values. The bacterial community structure was affected by diet, age, and the interaction of these factors (P < 0.01). Twenty-eight bacterial phyla were identified in the fecal samples, and the most predominant phyla were Firmicutes (42.35%), Bacteroidota (39.37%), and Proteobacteria (9.36%). The most prevalent genera were Bacteroides (10.71%), Lactobacillus (8.11%), Alloprevotella (6.20%). Over the weeks, different genera were predominant, with some showing significant differences among treatments. The different liquid diets altered the fecal bacterial community during the pre-weaning period. However, differences in the initial colonization due to different liquid diets are alleviated after weaning, when animals share a common environment and solid diet composition.