Switching from warm-season grasses to cool-season forages can give livestock a belly ache, in some cases a deadly one, according to Texas AgriLife Research scientists.


Dr. Bill Pinchak, Texas AgriLife Research animal nutritionist at Vernon, is leading a team of scientists who are using state-of-the-art technology – metagenomics – to determine how changes in diet affect microbial communities in the digestive tract of cattle and how these changes may increase risk of disease.


Metagenomics is a field of molecular microbiology where the presence of a microbe is determined by identifying its DNA in a sample rather than trying to grow the organism in culture, said Dr. Jason Osterstock, AgriLife Research ruminant animal health scientist in Amarillo and part of the team.


Pinchak, who is head of the Bloat Research Project, said they want to understand the role of rumen microbial communities in metabolic disease, specifically frothy bloat of cattle grazing winter wheat pastures. Bloat is a costly and sometimes fatal disease of cattle, with an estimated $400 million negative impact on the beef cattle industry.


Their goal is to determine the interactions among rumen microbes that lead to the onset and duration of disease, he said.

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