I’m Goor, PhD candidate and a proud member of the Microbial Ecogenomics group at BGU, under the supervision of Professor Itzik Mizrahi.
My research is focused on the rumen microbiome and its link to host traits and cow’s genetics.
Why milking cows, why microbiome, why is it important?
Milking cows are a universal food resource and milk and its products are being consumed over all five continents with average consumption ranging from 10g/day in the area of Maslya and Indonesya, rising to 170g/d in north America and showing even higher values in Russia, central America. In Africa for example there is a clear difference in the consumption of milk between countries where in some of them the consumption is higher than in central America. Scandinvia is topping with a typical milk consumption of 450g/day.
Milk and dairy products play a key role in human nutrition and are important to the child development, especially in poor third world countries. Review of global trends and production indicates a stagnating level of milk consumption in many developed countries but a growing demand in some developing countries, notably in China.
Although not unequivocally supported by the evidence, milk appears to have a positive effect on growth among nutritionally or socio-economically disadvantaged children. Milk plays a central role in treating malnutrition both in industrialized countries and in developing count
ries. So, at this point I think I convinced you that milk is a important for the worldly nutritional security. But now, there is the other end, the ecological footprint. Not only that one-third of the planet’s arable land is occupied by livestock feed
crop cultivation, but livestock emits 44 percent of anthropogenic methane emissions.
Given the central ecological and agricultural roles of the milking cow, lowering its ecological footprint and increasing milk yield (and quality) have been addressed over tens of years by means of selective breeding and diet optimization. Nonetheless, at present time the improvements achieved are slow and incremental.
The microbiome of the cow’s rumen (the first compartment of its digestive system) is kind of a huge fermentor where the cow cultivates a complex community of different microbial species, especially bacteria and archaea who are specializing in decomposing the plant mass and on which functioning the cow is dependant.
Moreover, in the previous year we published a paper that underlined the role of the rumen microbial populations in feed efficiency, methane emission and milk ingredients. These findings position rumen microbiome as the new frontier for increasing cow feed efficiency on the one hand and lowering its ecological footprint on the other hand.
We are now, together with dear collaborators, studying a larger cohort of cows in order to learn the possible interactions between that might exist between cow’s genetic background and the microbial species in order understand whether some of the microbial species are heritable and if so, whether they could be mediators of genotypic control over feed efficiency, milk ingredients and methane emission.
In the long term, one can imagine a selective breeding that focus on beneficial microbial species in the offspring as well as an early microbial intervention in the rumen microbiota that will promote more efficient cows grown up milking cows that produce less methane.