Microbial Populations Change With Equine Eating Habits

The equine gastrointestinal tract contains microorganisms that help a foal grow into a healthy weanling. These microorganisms change from the time a horse is born until it is weaned, when he transitions to solid foods.

Researchers set out to determine which microbial populations are healthy and which are not; they also sought to determine how the microbiota change as the horse no longer relies on the mare’s milk for nutrition.

For their study, Drs. Ubaldo De La Torre, John Henderson, Kathleen Furtado, Madeleine Pedroja, O’Malley Elenamarie, Anthony Mora, Monica Pechanec, Elizabeth Maga and Michael Mienaltowski used 37 sets of foals and mares, mainly Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, on three farms, which were similarly managed. Fecal samples were collected from the foals on days 1,7, 28 and 60, as well as during weaning.

The scientists believed they would be able to determine the foals’ age and diarrhea status from the microbiota in the fecal samples they collected. Molecular-based technology was used to test the samples and it was determined that the bacterial population fluctuates, but follows a pattern dependent on what the foal was ingesting.

The researchers recommend further studies that can determine what bacteria is less abundant, yet important to foal health. They also are interested in how microbial populations are altered by management practices, which could help determine what practices are best for foal health and development.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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