Does dietary mitigation of enteric methane production affect rumen function and animal productivity in dairy cows?

Jolien B Veneman, Stefan Muetzel, Kenton J Hart, Catherine L Faulkner, Jon M Moorby, Hink B Perdok, Charles J Newbold

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71 Citations (Scopus)
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It has been suggested that the rumen microbiome and rumen function might be disrupted if methane production in the rumen is decreased. Furthermore concerns have been voiced that geography and management might influence the underlying microbial population and hence the response of the rumen to mitigation strategies. Here we report the effect of the dietary additives: linseed oil and nitrate on methane emissions, rumen fermentation, and the rumen microbiome in two experiments from New Zealand (Dairy 1) and the UK (Dairy 2). Dairy 1 was a randomized block design with 18 multiparous lactating cows. Dairy 2 was a complete replicated 3 x 3 Latin Square using 6 rumen cannulated, lactating dairy cows. Treatments consisted of a control total mixed ration (TMR), supplementation with linseed oil (4% of feed DM) and supplementation with nitrate (2% of feed DM) in both experiments. Methane emissions were measured in open circuit respiration chambers and rumen samples were analyzed for rumen fermentation parameters and microbial population structure using qPCR and next generation sequencing (NGS). Supplementation with nitrate, but not linseed oil, decreased methane yield (g/kg DMI; P<0.02) and increased hydrogen (P<0.03) emissions in both experiments. Furthermore, the effect of nitrate on gaseous emissions was accompanied by an increased rumen acetate to propionate ratio and consistent changes in the rumen microbial populations including a decreased abundance of the main genus Prevotella and a decrease in archaeal mcrA (log10 copies/g rumen DM content). These results demonstrate that methane emissions can be significantly decreased with nitrate supplementation with only minor, but consistent, effects on the rumen microbial population and its function, with no evidence that the response to dietary additives differed due to geography and different underlying microbial populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0140282
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Early online dateOct 2015
Publication statusFirst published - Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Archaea/drug effects
  • Bacteria/drug effects
  • Cattle
  • Dairying
  • Diet
  • Linseed Oil/pharmacology
  • Methane/biosynthesis
  • Nitrates/pharmacology
  • Rumen/microbiology


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