The Effect of Milk Replacer Composition on the Intestinal Microbiota of Pre-ruminant Dairy Calves

James Badman, Kristian Daly, Jennifer Kelly, Andrew W. Moran, John Cameron, Ian Watson, John Newbold, Soraya P. Shirazi-Beechey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


The impact of dietary composition and prebiotics, in promoting the growth of beneficial groups of gut bacteria, is increasingly apparent. Using Illumina MiSeq sequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA genes, this study has aimed to characterize and compare the establishment of the gastrointestinal microbiota in dairy calves given two different commercial milk replacer (MR) diets. MR1 and MR2 contain different levels of macronutrients such as protein and fat. Moreover, differences in manufacturing methods infer that MR2 may contain a greater proportion of conjugated milk oligosaccharides (OS), while MR1 contains more free milk OS. A total of 10 dairy calves, five in each group, were assigned to one of the two MR diets. Freshly voided fecal samples were taken at 0, 7, 14, 28, and 49 days after first consumption of milk replacer. The relative abundance of two individual Bifidobacterium species, which are known to utilize milk OS, and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii were significantly higher at day 7 in the fecal microbiome of calves fed MR2 compared with MR1. These commensal bacteria are widely regarded as probiotic organisms that confer a health benefit on the host. Our findings suggest that the composition of bovine milk replacers can have significant effects on the establishment of the gut microbiota in pre-weaned (neonatal) dairy calves. Better understanding of milk composition-microbiota-host interactions in early life will inform targeted interventions to increase growth and reduce mortality in young animals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number371
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Early online date24 Oct 2019
Publication statusFirst published - 24 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 Badman, Daly, Kelly, Moran, Cameron, Watson, Newbold and Shirazi-Beechey.


  • dairy calf
  • intestine
  • microbiota
  • milk replacer
  • pre-ruminant


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