Zinc is an important mineral in your diet; it’s required by many of your enzymes and having too much or too little can cause health problems. We know quite a bit about how important zinc is to sheep, in particular for their growth, immune system, and fertility. We also know that organically- versus inorganically-sourced zinc differs in its bio-availability, or how easy it is for cells to access and use it. Surprisingly, we know nothing about how different zinc formulations might affect gut microbiota, despite the knowledge that microorganisms may also need zinc.
This collaborative study was led by Dr. Whit Stewart and his then-graduate student, Chad Page, while they were at Montana State University (they are now both at the University of Wyoming). Chad’s work focused on how different sources of zinc affected sheep growth and performance (previously presented, publication forthcoming), and I put together this companion paper examining the effects on rumen bacteria. Unfortunately, the article is not currently open-access.
Ishaq, S.L., Page, C.M., Yeoman, C.J., Murphy, T.W., Van Emon, M.L., Stewart, W.C. 2019. Zinc amino acid supplementation alters yearling ram rumen bacterial communities but zinc sulfate supplementation does not. Journal of Animal Science 97(2):687–697. Article.
Despite the body of research into Zn for human and animal health and productivity, very little work has been done to discern whether this benefit is exerted solely on the host organism, or whether there is some effect of dietary Zn upon the gastrointestinal microbiota, particularly in ruminants. We hypothesized that 1) supplementation with Zn would alter the rumen bacterial community in yearling rams, but that 2) supplementation with either inorganically-sourced ZnSO4, or a chelated Zn amino acid complex, which was more bioavailable, would affect the rumen bacterial community differently. Sixteen purebred Targhee yearling rams were utilized in an 84 d completely-randomized design, and allocated to one of three pelleted dietary treatments: control diet without fortified Zn (~1 x NRC), a diet fortified with a Zn amino acid complex (~2 x NRC), and a diet fortified with ZnSO4 (~2 x NRC). Rumen bacterial community was assessed using Illumina MiSeq of the V4-V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene. One hundred and eleven OTUs were found with > 1% abundance across all samples. The genera Prevotella, Solobacterium, Ruminococcus, Butyrivibrio, Olsenella, Atopobium, and the candidate genus Saccharimonas were abundant in all samples. Total rumen bacterial evenness and diversity in rams were reduced by supplementation with a Zn-amino-acid complex, but not in rams supplemented with an equal concentration of ZnSO4, likely due to differences in bioavailability between organic and inorganically-sourced supplement formulations. A number of bacterial genera were altered by Zn supplementation, but only the phylum Tenericutes was significantly reduced by ZnSO4 supplementation, suggesting that either Zn supplementation formulation could be utilized without causing a high-level shift in the rumen bacterial community which could have negative consequences for digestion and animal health.