The microbial communities (known as the microbiota) residing within the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and reproductive tracts are vital to livestock health for their involvement in nutrient metabolism, ability to influence infectious and metabolic diseases, and reproductive efficiency. Dr. Amat’s research program aims to harness the bovine microbiome to improve animal health and productivity, reduce methane emissions, and reduce reliance on antibiotic use in the beef cattle continuum. To achieve this goal, Dr. Amat has been collaborating closely with researchers in the Department of Animal Sciences, researchers outside of NDSU (e.g. USDA-MARC, Clay Center) and blending his microbiome-focused research activities with the well-established and ongoing research programs led by these researchers.
Some of the research projects that are currently being carried out by Amat team are as follows:
- Characterizing the maternal microbiome, in utero microbial colonization of the fetal digestive system, and their role in fetal programming and offspring development in cattle. This research project investigates fundamental questions regarding the maternal microbiome, in-utero microbial colonization, and their role in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD). For this, Dr. Amat has been investigating (In collaboration with Drs. Dahlen, Ward, Swanson, and Caton) the microbiota associated with bovine fetuses obtained at different gestational ages, the impact of maternal nutritional alterations on in-utero microbial colonization of the fetus and offspring microbiome development. Dr. Amat received a USDA-NIFA-AFRI grant to investigate the impact of altering the maternal microbiota via high-forage or high-concentrate diets on offspring microbiome development, energy balance, methane emissions, and feedlot performance.
- Develop reproductive microbiome-targeted strategies to improve cattle fertility and reproductive efficiency. Dr. Amat's lab has been working together with Drs. Dahlen, Ward (NDSU), and Crouse (USDA-MARC) to characterize the bovine seminal microbiota and vagino-uterine microbiota to identify the individual and/or interactive role the seminal and vagino-uterine microbiota may play in fertilization and pregnancy outcome.
- Using antibiotic alternatives (e.g. essential oil and bacteriophage) to mitigate bacterial pathogens associated with bovine respiratory disease (BRD) and liver abscesses, reducing antibiotic use in cattle.
- Investigating the impact of feeding hempseed cake on the gut, respiratory and reproductive microbiota in finishing beef heifers [Collaboration with Drs. Swanson and Smith (USDA, ARS)].