Ruminant Nutrition

Michael S. Allen, Professor
Principal Investigator, Digestive Physiology Laboratory
David G. Main, Laboratory Coordinator

Our research team studies the relationship between digestion characteristics of feeds and energy intake, efficiency of microbial protein production in the rumen, partitioning of metabolic fuels and milk production. Digestion characteristics of feeds affect the amount, type and temporal variation of metabolic fuels absorbed, and nitrogen utilization by ruminal microbes and the animal. Temporal variation in absorbed metabolic fuels affects meal size (determined by satiety) and intermeal interval (determined by hunger), which together determine feed intake as well as partitioning of energy to adipose tissue and the mammary gland. Our overall goal is to maximize efficiency of nutrient utilization by ruminant animals with emphasis on nitrogen while formulating diets to maintain animal health.

David K. Beede, Professor and C. E. Meadows Endowed Chair
Principal Investigator, Meadows Laboratory

The C. E. Meadows Chair promotes scholarly research, extension and teaching in response to the needs of the Michigan dairy industry. Activities embrace and support the Land Grant mission of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and MSU. The Chair provides intellectual leadership to the MSU faculty as well as the dairy industry of the state in a broad area encompassed under dairy management. The Chair supports and integrates contributions of both the biological and economic disciplines for efficient and environmentally sustainable dairy production. Current research objectives are:

  1. to determine biological strategies and whole-farm systems approaches to increase the efficiency of utilization and reduce excretion of phosphorus (P) by dairy cattle;
  2. to determine if varying dietary P concentrations in prepartum diets affects peripartum health and productive performance, and P excretion by dairy cattle;
  3. to develop and test management and nutritional strategies for pregnant dairy cows to improve transition performance;
  4. to test the validity of the approach to establish the maintenance requirement for absorbed P for ruminating dairy animals (NRC, 2001);
  5. to determine if prepartum exercise of dry pregnant cows is efficacious to improve postpartum performance as indicated by metabolic adaptations, bone metabolism, periparturient health, and lactation and reproductive performance; and
  6. to develop and integrate whole-farm systems models to optimize productive, environmental and economic management of dairy businesses.

Daniel Buskirk, Associate Professor

Our research focuses on nutritional management of beef systems. Current research includes manipulating carcass traits by feeding regimen, and identifying factors affecting proliferation and differentiation of bovine preadipocytes. This will provide insight necessary to exploit developmental differences in adipose tissue depots through nutrition and management. The ultimate goal is to enhance the quality of consumer-driven beef products. Additional areas of research include calf weaning systems that reduce stress and improve gain, stocker cattle management strategies that optimize feed use, and cow feeding systems that improve forage utilization.

Adam Lock, Assistant Professor
Ruminant Nutrition, Nutritional & Digestive Physiology, Lactation Biology) Courtney Preseault, Laboratory Manager & Research Technician

Research in the Lock lab focuses on the regulation and manipulation of ruminant lipid metabolism, allowing improvements in the efficiency of animal production and providing opportunities to design foods that are consistent with consumer perceptions and dietary recommendations. Of particular interest is the effect of diet on the production of bioactive fatty acids in the rumen, their subsequent impact on metabolism and milk fat synthesis in the mammary gland and applying this knowledge to improve our ability to troubleshoot on farm issues related to milk fat depression. The impact of milk on human health, in particular the role of milk fat, is also of special interest.

Steven Rust, Professor
Ruminant Nutrition Laboratory

Our research activities have been focused on feeding and management strategies to improve growth, efficiency and carcass quality of feedlot cattle. We have conducted several studies on the use of Propionibacterium as a starter culture for ensiling high-moisture corn and its use as a direct-fed additive to feedlot diets. Dr. rust is a co-author for two patents on this technology. Another area of current research includes feeding and management strategies to lessen the occurrence and severity of acidosis in cattle fed high concentrate diets. Probiotics or direct-fed microbials may provide some assistance in managing subacute acidosis. Studies are currently being conducted to develop strategies to minimize methane production in cattle. Various inhibitor type compounds have been investigated. The impact of implants, age and cattle type on profitability, tenderness and palatability is also a current research activity. Evaluation of corn hybrids and endosperm types in relation to protein supplementation strategies is currently under investigation. Other research topics include: receiving programs for newly received cattle, use of byproduct feed in high concentrate diets, use of repartitioning agents and growth-promoting implants on carcass quality, and protein nutrition. Many of the research projects utilize live animals in growth or metabolism studies.

Michael J. VandeHaar, Professor
Ruminant Metabolism Laboratory
Jim Liesman, Research Associate

My research program includes dairy nutrition and mammary physiology, replacement heifer nutrition and management and nutrition modeling. The major research focus is to identify mechanisms by which nutrition alters mammary development of dairy heifers with emphasis on leptin and the insulin-like growth factor system.

Miriam S. Weber Nielsen, Assistant Professor
Ruminant Metabolism Laboratory

Our research program focuses on identifying hormonal and nutritional factors that regulate growth and development of the bovine mammary gland. The emphasis of our current work is on evaluating development of the mammary gland in growing heifers and in response to changes in nutritional management. The laboratory also conducts work to identify factors that regulate proliferation of mammary epithelial cells in vitro. Research involves a variety of techniques including cell culture, immunocytochemistry, RT-PCR, cDNA microarrays, Northern blotting, Western blotting, ELISA, radioimmunoassay and others. The overall goal of our research is to identify strategies to more efficiently raise and manage dairy heifers to be productive lactating cows.