Faecal microbiota of forage-fed horses in New Zealand and the population dynamics of microbial communities following dietary change.

Research paper by Karlette A KA Fernandes, Sandra S Kittelmann, Christopher W CW Rogers, Erica K EK Gee, Charlotte F CF Bolwell, Emma N EN Bermingham, David G DG Thomas

Indexed on: 11 Nov '14Published on: 11 Nov '14Published in: PloS one


The effects of abrupt dietary transition on the faecal microbiota of forage-fed horses over a 3-week period were investigated. Yearling Thoroughbred fillies reared as a cohort were exclusively fed on either an ensiled conserved forage-grain diet ("Group A"; n = 6) or pasture ("Group B"; n = 6) for three weeks prior to the study. After the Day 0 faecal samples were collected, horses of Group A were abruptly transitioned to pasture. Both groups continued to graze similar pasture for three weeks, with faecal samples collected at 4-day intervals. DNA was isolated from the faeces and microbial 16S and 18S rRNA gene amplicons were generated and analysed by pyrosequencing. The faecal bacterial communities of both groups of horses were highly diverse (Simpson's index of diversity > 0.8), with differences between the two groups on Day 0 (P < 0.017 adjusted for multiple comparisons). There were differences between Groups A and B in the relative abundances of four genera, BF311 (family Bacteroidaceae; P = 0.003), CF231 (family Paraprevotellaceae; P = 0.004), and currently unclassified members within the order Clostridiales (P = 0.003) and within the family Lachnospiraceae (P = 0.006). The bacterial community of Group A horses became similar to Group B within four days of feeding on pasture, whereas the structure of the archaeal community remained constant pre- and post-dietary change. The community structure of the faecal microbiota (bacteria, archaea and ciliate protozoa) of pasture-fed horses was also identified. The initial differences observed appeared to be linked to recent dietary history, with the bacterial community of the forage-fed horses responding rapidly to abrupt dietary change.