, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 583-594
Date: 14 Jul 2010

Metabolomics reveals unhealthy alterations in rumen metabolism with increased proportion of cereal grain in the diet of dairy cows

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This study presents the first application of metabolomics to evaluate changes in rumen metabolites of dairy cows fed increasing proportions of barley grain (i.e., 0, 15, 30, and 45% of diet dry matter). 1H-NMR spectroscopy was used to analyze rumen fluid samples representing 4 different diets. Results showed that for cows fed 30 and 45% grain, increases were observed in the concentration of rumen methylamine as well as glucose, alanine, maltose, propionate, uracil, valerate, xanthine, ethanol, and phenylacetate. These studies also revealed lower rumen 3-phenylpropionate in cows fed greater amounts of cereal grain. Furthermore, ANOVA tests showed noteworthy increases in rumen concentrations of N-nitrosodimethylamine, dimethylamine, lysine, leucine, phenylacetylglycine, nicotinate, glycerol, fumarate, butyrate, and valine with an enriched grain diet. Using principal component analysis it was also found that each of the 4 diets could be distinguished on the basis of the measured rumen metabolites. The two closest clusters corresponded to the 0 and 15% grain diets, whereas the 45% barley grain diet was significantly separated from the other clusters. Unhealthly levels of a number of potentially toxic metabolites were found in the rumen of cattle fed 30 and 45% grain diets. These results may have a number of implications regarding the influence of grain on the overall health of dairy cows.