The surface of beef cattle feedlot pens is commonly conceptualized as being packed uncomposted manure. Despite the important role that the feedlot pen may play in the transmission of veterinary and zoonotic pathogens, the bacterial ecology of feedlot surface material is not well understood. Our present study characterized the bacterial communities of the beef cattle feedlot pen surface material using 3647 full-length 16S rDNA sequences, and we compared the community composition of feedlot pens to the fecal source material. The feedlot surface composite was represented by members of the phylum Actinobacteria (42%), followed by Firmicutes (24%), Bacteroidetes (24%), and Proteobacteria (9%). The feedlot pen surface material bacterial communities were clearly distinct from those of the feces from animals in the same pen. Comparisons with previously published results of feces from the animals in the same pen reveal that, of 139 genera identified, only 25 were present in both habitats. These results indicate that, microbiologically, the feedlot pen surface material is separate and distinct from the fecal source material, suggesting that bacteria that originate in cattle feces face different selection pressures and survival challenges during their tenure in the feedlot pen, as compared to their residence in the gastrointestinal tract.
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