Ruminant animals contribute significantly to the global value of agriculture and rely on a complex microbial community for efficient digestion. However, little is known of how this microbial-host relationship develops and is maintained. To begin to address this, we have determined the ability of three Bifidobacterium species isolated from the faeces of newborn calves to grow on carbohydrates typical of a newborn ruminant diet. Genome sequences have been determined for these bacteria with analysis of the genomes providing insights into the host association and identification of several genes that may mediate interactions with the ruminant gastrointestinal tract. The present study provides a starting point from which we can define the role of potential beneficial microbes in the nutrition of young ruminants and begin to influence the interactions between the microbiota and the host. The differences observed in genomic content hint at niche partitioning among the bifidobacterial species analysed and the different strategies they employ to successfully adapt to this habitat.