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Microbial colonization of the gastrointestinal tract of dairy calves – a review of its importance and relationship to health and performance

, Carla Maris Machado Bittar

Abstract: This review aims to explain how microbial colonization of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) in young dairy calves is related to health and, consequently, to the performance of these animals. The review addresses everything from the fundamental aspects of microbial colonization to the current understanding about the microbiota manipulation to improve performance in adult animals. The ruminal microbiota is the most studied, mainly due to the high interest in the fermentative aspects, the production of short-chain fatty acids, and microbial proteins, and its effects on animal production. However, in recent years, the intestinal microbiota has gained space between studies, mainly due to the relationship to the host health and how it affects performance. Understanding how the GIT's microbiota looks like and how it is colonized may allow future studies to predict the best timing for dietary interventions as a way to manipulate it and, consequently, improve the health and performance of young ruminants.
Keywords: colonization / adult / calves / microbial / proteins / animals / microbiota / ruminal / manipulation / GIT

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