Effect of biochanin A on the rumen microbial community of Holstein steers consuming a high fiber diet and subjected to a subacute acidosis challenge

Brittany E Harlow, Michael D Flythe, James L Klotz, David L Harmon, Glen E Aiken

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13 Scopus citations


Subacute rumen acidosis (SARA) occurs when highly fermentable carbohydrates are introduced into the diet, decreasing pH and disturbing the microbial ecology of the rumen. Rumen amylolytic bacteria rapidly catabolize starch, fermentation acids accumulate in the rumen and reduce environmental pH. Historically, antibiotics (e.g., monensin, MON) have been used in the prevention and treatment of SARA. Biochanin A (BCA), an isoflavone produced by red clover (Trifolium pratense), mitigates changes associated with starch fermentation ex vivo. The objective of the study was to determine the effect of BCA on amylolytic bacteria and rumen pH during a SARA challenge. Twelve rumen fistulated steers were assigned to 1 of 4 treatments: HF CON (high fiber control), SARA CON, MON (200 mg d-1), or BCA (6 g d-1). The basal diet consisted of corn silage and dried distiller's grains ad libitum. The study consisted of a 2-wk adaptation, a 1-wk HF period, and an 8-d SARA challenge (d 1-4: 40% corn; d 5-8: 70% cracked corn). Samples for pH and enumeration were taken on the last day of each period (4 h). Amylolytic, cellulolytic, and amino acid/peptide-fermenting bacteria (APB) were enumerated. Enumeration data were normalized by log transformation and data were analyzed by repeated measures ANOVA using the MIXED procedure of SAS. The SARA challenge increased total amylolytics and APB, but decreased pH, cellulolytics, and in situ DMD of hay (P < 0.05). BCA treatment counteracted the pH, microbiological, and fermentative changes associated with SARA challenge (P < 0.05). Similar results were also observed with MON (P < 0.05). These results indicate that BCA may be an effective alternative to antibiotics for mitigating SARA in cattle production systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0253754
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021


  • Acidosis/drug therapy
  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Bacteria/drug effects
  • Bacterial Load
  • Cattle/microbiology
  • Cattle Diseases/drug therapy
  • Cellulose/metabolism
  • Deoxyglucose/pharmacology
  • Dietary Carbohydrates/metabolism
  • Dietary Fiber/metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins/metabolism
  • Fermentation
  • Gastrointestinal Contents/microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome/drug effects
  • Genistein/pharmacology
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ionophores/pharmacology
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Rumen/microbiology
  • Silage
  • Starch/metabolism


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