The hypothesis to test here is that the maternal diet (either during pregnancy and/or during the suckling period) and/or dietary interventions during the pre-weaning period influence the microbial population that first establishes in the rumen which further influences the microbial ecosystem post-weaning as well as the efficiency of ruminal fermentation and detoxification processes.
Attempts for interventions in early life with lasting effects up to adulthood typically require long term experiments, which is in conflict with a PhD research program within a 3 to 4-years timeframe. Accordingly, experiments with cattle are expensive and have limited chances of progress and success within the timeframe of a PhD. Hence, for a proof of concept as envisaged within this PhD research, sheep will be used as model animals.
The sheep studies established in the frame of this PhD research aim at assessing whether nutritional interventions in early life might enhance 1/ the number and activity of fibrolytic bacteria and the potential of ruminal fiber degradation, 2/ the number and activity of rumen bacteria degrading specific ANF present in selected legume species, 3/ ingestion of fibrous feed resources and legumes and 4/ performance of young livestock. 5/ Finally, attempts will be made as to understand the working mechanism of long-term effects of early-life interventions.