Feeding management of calves without antibiotics

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April 28, 2023

Improvement of the intestinal environment and possible reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

Kyushu University, in collaboration with the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences, the RIKEN CSRS the RIKEN BioResource Research Center, and the National Federation of Dairy Cooperative Associations, conducted industry-university joint research (Chiba University and a Chiba University-originated start-up company, Sermas Co., Ltd.) and showed that feeding management of Japanese Black calves without dependence on antibiotics could potentially affect cattle productivity and contribute to reducing environmental loads.

The use of antibiotics added to animal feed to improve the growth of livestock is becoming increasingly restricted worldwide as it might facilitate the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. However, how feeding management without antibiotics affects the growth and intestinal environments of Japanese Black calves has been unknown.

In this study, the research group fed Japanese Black calves with milk replacers with or without containing one percent of an antibacterial agent, chlortetracycline, and compared the drug’s effects on their growth performance and intestinal environment. The results showed that antibiotics did not affect growth performances but altered the correlation between the compositions of intestinal microbiota and the organic acid concentrations in feces. Detailed analyses with machine learning and statistical causal inference revealed that milk replacers without the antibiotic had a positive effect on the production of butyric acid, an organic acid (short-chain fatty acid) contributing to the health and productivity of calves. Butyrate-producing bacteria, the family Lachnospiraceae is computationally estimated to be involved in this effect. In contrast, the genus Methanobrevibacter, archaebacteria producing one of the greenhouse gases, methane, negatively affects butyric-acid production. Computational estimation suggested that the administration of antibiotics also negatively influences butyric acid. Overall, this study showed that feeding management of Japanese Black calves without dependence on antibiotics might contribute to calves’ healthy development and environmental load reduction.

Original article
Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33444-0
S. Okada, Y. Inabu, H. Miyamoto, K. Suzuki, T. Kato, A. Kurotani, Y. Taguchi, R. Fujino, Y. Shiotsuka, T. Etoh, N. Tsuji, M. Matsuura, A. Tsuboi, A. Saito, H. Masuya, J. Kikuchi, Y. Nagasawa, A. Hirose, T. Hayashi, H. Ohno, H. Takahashi,
"Estimation of silent phenotypes of calf antibiotic dysbiosis".
Jun KIkuchi
Team Leader
Environmental Metabolic Analysis Research Team