Effect of maternal diet on select fecal bacteria of foals

Morgan B. Pyles, Ashley L. Fowler, Veronica T. Bill, Brittany E. Harlow, Andrea D. Crum, Susan H. Hayes, Michael D. Flythe, Laurie M. Lawrence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Adult horses depend on the microbial community in the hindgut to digest fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids that are use for energy. Colonization of the foal gastrointestinal tract is essential to develop this symbiosis. However, factors affecting colonization are not well understood. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the age-related changes and effects of maternal diet on select fecal bacterial groups in foals from 1 to 28 d of age. Thoroughbred foals (n = 18) were from dams fed forage and one of two concentrates: an oat-based (OB) or corn and wheat middlings-based (CWB) pelleted concentrate. The mares had access to assigned concentrates, along with a mixed hay and cool-season grass pasture, 28 d before and 28 d after parturition. Fecal samples were collected from foals at 1 d (14 to 36 h), 4, 14, and 28 d after birth. Fecal samples were serially diluted with phosphate-buffered saline before inoculation of enriched, selective media to enumerate Lactobacillus spp., amylolytic bacteria, and cellulolytic bacteria. Enumeration data were log-transformed then analyzed with mixed model analysis of variance with repeated measures (SAS 9.3) to test the main effects of maternal diet (OB or CWB), time of sample, and interaction between maternal diet and time. Cellulolytic bacteria first appeared in foal feces between 4 and 14 d of age and increased with age (P < 0.05). Amylolytic bacteria and lactobacilli were abundant at 1 d and then increased with age (P < 0.05). There was an interaction between maternal diet and time for Lactobacillus spp. with OB foals having more lactobacilli than CWB foals at 1 and 4 d (P < 0.05); however, there were no differences observed at 14 d (P > 0.05). Maternal diet did not influence amylolytic or cellulolytic bacteria (P > 0.05). These results indicate that colonization of the hindgut is a sequential process beginning early in the foal's life and that maternal diet may influence some bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract of foals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-211
Number of pages8
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society of Animal Science. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Horse
  • Microbial colonization
  • Starch source

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • General Veterinary


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