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Research article2008Peer reviewed

Effects of crude protein intake from grass silage-only diets on the equine colon ecosystem after an abrupt feed change

Muhonen, S.; Connysson, M.; Lindberg, J. E.; Julliand, V.; Bertilsson, J.; Jansson, A.


The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of CP intake from 2 grass silage-only diets, differing in CP concentration, fed at similar DMI on the equine colon ecosystem after an abrupt feed change between the diets. Four adult right ventral colon-fistulated geldings were fed one silage-only diet high in CP (HP, 873 g of CP/d) and one diet providing recommended intakes (RP, 615 g of CP/d). An adaptation period of 15 d on either the HP or the RP diet was followed by 2 experimental periods when the diets were fed for 22 d each in a crossover design. Colon samples were taken before and at 4, 12, and 24 h, and at 7, 14, and 22 d after the feed change. During the first 24 h after the abrupt feed change, the concentrations of total anaerobic bacteria and lactobacilli were greater on the HP than the RP diet (7.1 vs. 6.7 log(10) cfu/mL, P = 0.021, 6.0 vs. 5.5 log(10) cfu/mL, P = 0.021, respectively). During the first 24 h post feed change, VFA concentrations did not differ between the diets. From 7 to 22 d, total VFA concentrations were greater on the HP diet than on the RP diet (51.8 vs. 45.1 mmol/ L, P = 0.034), and colon pH was lower on the HP diet than on the RP diet (6.9 vs. 7.2, P = 0.035). After an adaptation period of 22 d, N, ammonia, and urea concentrations and osmolality of the colon fluid did not differ between diets. Fecal pH and colon and fecal DM were unchanged throughout the experiment. The results suggest that, in horses fed at the maintenance level of energy intake, a feed change between silages with different CP content may alter the colon bacterial counts within the first 24 h. Moreover, during the subsequent 3 wk, pH decreased slightly and VFA concentrations increased, but no other major alterations occurred in the composition and activities of the colon ecosystem or fecal DM.


colon microflora; equine; nitrogen; pH; protein intake; silage

Published in

Journal of Animal Science
2008, Volume: 86, number: 12, pages: 3465-3472