The horse, as a hindgut fermenter, is reliant on its intestinal bacterial population for efficient diet utilisation. However, sudden disturbance of this population can result in severe colic or laminitis, both of which may require euthanasia. This study therefore aimed to determine the temporal stability of the bacterial population of faecal samples from six ponies maintained on a formulated high fibre diet. Bacterial 16S rRNA terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) analyses of 10 faecal samples collected from 6 ponies at regular intervals over 72 hour trial periods identified a significant pony-specific profile (P<0.001) with strong stability. Within each pony, a significantly different population was found after 11 weeks on the same diet (P<0.001) and with greater intra-individual similarity. Total short chain fatty acid (SCFA) concentration increased in all ponies, but other changes (such as bacterial population diversity measures, individual major SCFA concentration) were significant and dependent on the individual. This study is the first to report the extent of stability of microbes resident in the intestinal tract as represented with such depth and frequency of faecal sampling. In doing so, this provides a baseline from which future trials can be planned and the extent to which results may be interpreted.
- DNA, Bacterial/genetics
- Fatty Acids, Volatile/metabolism
- Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
- Principal Component Analysis
- RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics
- Time Factors