View graph of relations


Main research question/goal
This doctoral study is part of a larger European project called “FACCE-JPI Rumen Stability”, which started on January 1, 2014. The aim is to test a daring hypothesis that, if confirmed, can mitigate the methane emission of ruminants in a fairly simple way. The hypothesis is that the initial development of microbes in the rumen (where greenhouse gases are produced by certain microbes) has a major influence on the adult microbiome, which eventually determines the methane production. This development occurs very early in life. Manipulations early in life, with the aim of permanent effects later in life, are called “early life programming”. This research project aims to steer the developing microbiome of the rumen (in early life phase) to permanently lower methane emissions using two feed additives: extruded linseed and an essential oil blend.

Research approach
This empirical research project focuses on dairy cattle. Wuse ILVO’s emission measurement rooms, called  gas exchange chambers or GEC. We also map bacterial populations. We split a group of 30 Holstein-Friesian heifer calves in a control treatment and two experimental treatments (extruded linseed and essential oil blend). The treatment starts from birth and stops at 4 months of age. After this time, all calves are reared on the same diet. The calves are monitored closely throughout the trial (from birth until one month after their first calving): feed intake, growth, immunity, composition of the rumen microbiome over course of time and methane emission. The mother animals of the 30 heifer calves are sampled once for rumen fluid, to map their personal microbial population.

This doctoral study investigates the possibilities of steering the composition of the rumen microbiome and its persistency during the life cycle of the ruminant. If the hypothesis is confirmed, this reveals new and interesting perspectives for livestock farming, from both an ecological and economical point of view. The use of feed additives is one of the most promising strategies to reduce methane production in ruminants today. But these strategies are too expensive to implement them during the full life of the ruminant.  By using early life programming, the treatment period is shorter and the doses lower. If the rumen microbiome of the newborn animal can be steered in this way into a beneficial and permanent direction, then the possible negative effect on taste of milk en meat due to lifelong treatment can be avoided. The results of this study are communicated throughout Europe and beyond and are intensively communicated through workshops, presentations and informative sessions for all stakeholders (e.g. other researchers, farmers, livestock feed sector).

Funding provider(s)
ILVO - Instituut voor Landbouw-, Visserij- en voedingsonderzoek
Effective start/end date1/01/1430/06/18

ID: 4155834