Rumen parameters of yaks (Bos grunniens) and indigenous cattle (Bos taurus) grazing on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

Fuyu Shi, Hucheng Wang, Abraham Allan Degen, Jianwei Zhou, Na Guo, Shah Mudassar, Ruijun Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Yaks and indigenous Qaidam cattle and cattle-yak crosses (C × Y) graze on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) throughout the year, but yaks are raised at higher elevations than cattle. Yaks do not receive supplementary feed whereas cattle require supplementary feed during harsh winter. We hypothesized that yaks would cope with the severe conditions of the QTP better than cattle and utilize the pasture more efficiently. We also hypothesized that differences between species would be pronounced in winter, when conditions are particularly harsh. To test these hypotheses, seasonal rumen fluid parameters of yaks, C × Y and cattle (n = 3 for each) were examined. Rumen fluid was collected in summer and winter from each genotype 2, 5 and 12 hr after a day of grazing. Concentrations of total volatile fatty acid (VFA), acetate, propionate, isobutyrate and isovalerate were greater in yaks than in cattle in summer (p < 0.05), while propionate concentration was lower in yaks than in cattle in winter (p < 0.05). Concentrations of ammonia and urea were greater (p < 0.001) in yaks than in cattle (p < 0.001) in summer, whereas, concentrations of free amino acids (AA) were greater in cattle than in yaks in summer and winter (p < 0.001). Concentrations of total VFA, acetate, propionate and butyrate decreased linearly (p < 0.05), whereas concentrations of isobutyrate and isovalerate increased linearly for yak and C × Y with sampling time (p < 0.05) in summer. In summer, concentrations of isobutyrate and isovalerate were greater in yaks than in cattle (p < 0.05). In conclusion, rumen fermentation characteristics of yaks showed that they coped better than cattle or C × Y in the harsh climate as we hypothesized. However, in contrast to our hypothesis, this emerged only in summer, when pasture was plentiful and not in winter, when pasture was scarce.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-976
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition
Volume103
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau
  • free-grazing animals
  • indigenous cattle
  • rumen fermentation
  • yak

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