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Rumen Microbes

Learn more about the role of the rumen and lower gut microorganisms and their impact on the host’s performance and health. The ruminant is a fascinating animal due to its ability to convert feed and forage into energy and microbial protein thanks to the activity of its gut microbial community: bacteria, archaea, protozoa, and fungi. This page features microbes found in the gut of ruminants.

Ruminococcus albus

Ruminococcus albus are highly cellulolytic bacteria that belong to the phylum Firmicutes and are commonly found in cattle rumen. They are an essential bacterial species for ruminants, which digest a wide variety of fiber and help with its digestibility. This microorganism produces acetate, usable by its bovine host. Also, it is one of the few microorganisms that ferments cellulose from the plants to form ethanol.

Click the image hotspots to learn more about this featured microbe.

This interactive image was created by Juan Fernando Cordero Llarena

(Image courtesy of FT Valley Farm)

cattle in a field
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USDA Scientists looking at fermentation equipment

​Because Ruminococcus albus is widely known as one of the most actively fibrolytic ruminal bacteria, the genes from certain types of R. albus have also been used to breakdown feedstock in the biofuel industry. Image courtesy of the USDA.

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Two cattle in a field

R. albus had been linked to activities that influence cellulose degradation and contribute to the conversion of fibrous feed into the organic acids utilized by the host as nutrients. Many studies have been found that R. albus can represent around 10% of the total rumen microbiome.

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microscopic images of bacterial cells

​Recent studies discovered that certain R. albus types are sensitive to biochanin A, potentially altering the cellulolytic balance in the rumen. Biochanin A is an important compound that commonly comes from red clover and has been researched to mitigate the symptoms of fescue toxicosis. Image courtesy of Vodovnik et al, 2013. PLoS ONE

For additional information, please contact Dr. Phillip Myer.

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​This work was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture,
Hatch/Multistate Project W4177 – TEN00524 Enhancing the Competitiveness and Value of U.S. Beef; Accession Number: 1016984