WSU ag animal faculty research updates, spring 2024

Host and rumen microbiome contributions to feed efficiency traits in Holstein cows

Guillermo Martinez Boggio, Hugo F Monteiro, Fabio S Lima, Caio C Figueiredo, Rafael S Bisinotto, José E P Santos, Bruna Mion, Flavio S Schenkel, Eduardo S Ribeiro, Kent A Weigel, Francisco Peñagaricano

DOI: 10.3168/jds.2023-23869


It is now widely accepted that dairy cow performance is influenced by both the host genome and rumen microbiome composition. The contributions of the genome and the microbiome to the phenotypes of interest are quantified by heritability (h2) and microbiability (m2), respectively. However, if the genome and microbiome are included in the model, then the heritability reflects only the contribution of the direct genetic effects quantified as direct heritability (hd2), and the holobiont effect reflects the joint action of the genome and the microbiome, quantified as the holobiability (ho2). The objectives of this study were to estimate h2, hd2,m2, and ho2 for dry matter intake, milk energy, and residual feed intake; and to evaluate the predictive ability of different models, including genome, microbiome, and their interaction. Data consisted of feed efficiency records, SNP genotype data, and 16S rRNA rumen microbial abundances from 448 mid-lactation Holstein cows from 2 research farms. Three kernel models were fit to each trait: one with only the genomic effect (model G), one with the genomic and microbiome effects (model GM), and one with the genomic, microbiome, and interaction effects (model GMO). The model GMO, or holobiont model, showed the best goodness-of-fit. The hd2 estimates were always 10 to 15% lower than h2 estimates for all traits, suggesting a mediated genetic effect through the rumen microbiome, and m2 estimates were moderate for all traits, and up to 26% for milk energy. The ho2 was greater than the sum of hd2 and m2, suggesting that the genome-by-microbiome interaction had a sizeable effect on feed efficiency. Kernel models fitting the rumen microbiome, i.e., models GM and GMO, showed larger predictive correlations and smaller prediction bias than the model G. These findings reveal a moderate contribution of the rumen microbiome to feed efficiency traits in lactating Holstein cows and strongly suggest that the rumen microbiome mediates part of the host genetic effect.

Comparative diagnoses of respiratory disease in preweaned dairy calves using sequential thoracic ultrasonography and clinical respiratory scoring

H R Hinnant, L A Elder, R Claus-Walker, C M Mandella, G S Slanzon, L M Parrish, S C Trombetta, C S McConnel

DOI: 10.1111/avj.13309


Aims: Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) has serious impacts on dairy production and animal welfare. It is most commonly diagnosed based on clinical respiratory signs (CRS), but in recent years, thoracic ultrasonography (TUS) has emerged as a diagnostic tool with improved sensitivity and specificity. This study aimed to assess the alignment of BRD diagnoses based on a Clinical Respiratory Scoring Chart (CRSC) and weekly TUS findings throughout the progression of BRD of variable severity in preweaned Holstein dairy heifers.

Methods: A total of 60 calves on two farms were followed from the 2nd week of life through the 11th week of life and assessed on a weekly basis for CRS and lung consolidation via TUS. The alignment of BRD diagnoses based on CRSC scores and TUS findings was evaluated across disease progression (pre-consolidation, onset, chronic, or recovered) and severity (lobular or lobar lung consolidation) using receiver operator curves and area under the curves combined with Cohen’s kappa (κ), sensitivity, and specificity.

Results: The diagnosis of BRD using CRSC scores ≥5 aligned best with the onset of lobar lung consolidation (>1 cm in width and full thickness). This equated to an acceptable level of discrimination (AUC = 0.76), fair agreement (κ = 0.37), and a sensitivity of 29% and specificity of 99%. Similarly, there was acceptable discrimination (AUC = 0.70) and fair agreement (κ = 0.33) between CRSC ≥5 and the onset of a less severe threshold of disease based on lobular (1-3 cm2 but not full thickness) or lobar consolidation. Discrimination remained acceptable (AUC = 0.71) with fair agreement (κ = 0.28) between CRSC scores ≥2 for nasal discharge and/or cough (spontaneous or induced) and the onset of lobar consolidation. However, sensitivity was <40% across comparisons and outside of the onset of disease there tended to be poor discrimination, slight agreement, and lowered sensitivity between CRS and TUS diagnoses of lobular or lobar consolidation (pre-consolidation, chronic, or recovered). Conversely, specificity was relatively high (≥92%) across comparisons suggesting that CRSC diagnoses indicative of BRD and associated lung consolidation tend to result in few false positive diagnoses and accurate identification of healthy animals.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Although we found the specificity of clinical signs for diagnosing lung consolidation to be ≥92% across all methods of TUS evaluations, the low levels of sensitivity dictate that clinical assessments lead to many false negative diagnoses. Consequently, depending on clinical signs alone to diagnose BRD within populations of dairy calves will likely result in overlooking a substantial proportion of subclinically affected animals that could inform the success of treatment and prevention protocols and guide management decisions.