Effect of feeding corn silage on semen quality and spermatogenesis of bulls

Dianqi Zhang, Sayed Haidar Abbas Raza, Xinze Du, Juze Wang, Meng Wang, Jing Ma, Kuncheng Xie, Sameer D. Pant, Jie He, Bander Hamad Aloufi, Chugang Mei, Linsen Zan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bovine reproduction, including male fertility traits like semen quality, are influenced by a variety of different factors like breed, nutrition, environment, and feeding management. Diet in a crucial determinant, and in this regard although corn silage is generally considered to be a favorable roughage for fattening meat type breeds, it tends to have a negative impact on semen quality. In the current study, alfalfa hay was substituted by corn silage as a roughage source in the diet of bulls to investigate its effects on the fertility of breeding bulls. A feeding trail spanning 140 days was conducted, with semen collection occurring twice a week commencing 60 days after the start of trial. Semen quality parameters, serum antioxidant indexes, sex hormone content in semen, rumen microflora, and sperm transcriptome were characterized. Feeding corn silage enhanced host antioxidant capacity, significantly decreased spermatozoal motility and increased sperm deformity rate in bulls. Furthermore, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) content in semen were significantly decreased (P < 0.05), and the inhibin B (INHB) content was significantly increased (P < 0.01). Feeding corn silage led to significant changes in the diversity of rumen microbiota of cattle at the phylum and genus levels, some of which were significantly correlated with semen quality. Subsequent RNA sequencing indicated that DHH and PITHD1, two genes related to sperm and reproductive development, were differentially expressed, and enrichment analysis also identified several pathways and biological functions relevant to sperm development and reproduction. These results indicate that feeding corn silage modulates semen quality via different pathways. Firstly, corn silage metabolites likely affect the secretion of INHB through the testicular capillaries, which affects semen quality by regulating genes involved in spermatogenesis. Secondly, low lignin content in silage corn appears to reduce abundance of rumen flora that are positively correlated with semen quality. Overall, results indicate that feeding bulls corn silage as the primary source of forage could negatively impact semen quality and may not be appropriate as the primary roughage of forage for breeding bulls.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-401
Number of pages11
JournalVeterinary Research Communications
Early online date21 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


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