Meat and dairy products could be improved by thousands of bugs in cows’ stomachs that have been found by scientists using special DNA technology.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute studied how microbes in a cow’s rumen help cattle digest and extract energy from their food.
Inside the first of a cow’s four stomachs they found thousands of bacteria which are essential for livestock wellbeing and food production.
A special handheld device was then used to generate DNA and allow the team to completely sequence the genomes and shorten the data process.
Professor Mick Watson, head of genetics and genomics at The Roslin Institute, said: “The cow rumen is a gift that keeps on giving.
“We were surprised by how many completely new microbes we have discovered, which is far more than in our previous study.
“The findings will inform studies of cow health and meat and dairy production for many years to come.”
Researchers studied samples from 283 cows and identified almost 5,000 new strains of microbes and more than 2,000 novel species.
The findings were made in collaboration with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen.
Rainer Roehe, professor of animal genetics and microbiome at SRUC, said: “We’ve identified some 5,000 novel genomes of microbial species in the rumen that all play a vital role.
“Not only do they enhance breeding and nutrition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, they also improve production efficiency, product quality and animal health.”
The study is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.