Effect of castration timing and weaning strategy on the taxonomic and functional profile of ruminal bacteria and archaea of beef calves

Gerardo R Diaz Ortiz, Tara N. Gaire, Peter Ferm, Lacey Case, Luciano S. Caixeta, Timothy J. Goldsmith, Joe Armstrong, Noelle R. Noyes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Beef cattle experience several management challenges across their lifecycle. Castration and weaning, two major interventions in the early life of beef cattle, can have a substantial impact on animal performance. Despite the key role of the rumen microbiome on productive traits of beef cattle, the effect of castration timing and weaning strategy on this microbial community has not been formally described. We assessed the effect of four castration time windows (at birth, turnout, pre-weaning and weaning) and two weaning strategies (fence-line and truck transportation) on the rumen microbiome in a randomized controlled study with 32 male calves across 3 collection days (i.e., time points). Ruminal fluid samples were submitted to shotgun metagenomic sequencing and changes in the taxonomic (microbiota) and functional profile (metagenome) of the rumen microbiome were described. Results: Using a comprehensive yet stringent taxonomic classification approach, we identified 10,238 unique taxa classified under 40 bacterial and 7 archaeal phyla across all samples. Castration timing had a limited long-term impact on the rumen microbiota and was not associated with changes in alpha and beta diversity. The interaction of collection day and weaning strategy was associated with changes in the rumen microbiota, which experienced a significant decrease in alpha diversity and shifts in beta diversity within 48 h post-weaning, especially in calves abruptly weaned by truck transportation. Calves weaned using a fence-line weaning strategy had lower relative abundance of Bacteroides, Lachnospira, Fibrobacter and Ruminococcus genera compared to calves weaned by truck transportation. Some genes involved in the hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis pathway (fwdB and fwdF) had higher relative abundance in fence-line-weaned calves post-weaning. The antimicrobial resistance gene tetW consistently represented more than 50% of the resistome across time, weaning and castration groups, without significant changes in relative abundance. Conclusions: Within the context of this study, castration timing had limited long-term effects on the rumen microbiota, while weaning strategy had short-term effects on the rumen microbiota and methane-associated metagenome, but not on the rumen resistome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number61
JournalAnimal Microbiome
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Cattle
  • Early life
  • Fence line
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Methanogens
  • Microbiome
  • Resistome
  • Shotgun
  • Truck

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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