Mare and Foal Nutrition Study Creates New Areas of Interest

Researchers recently conducted a study on the effects of starch source on mare and foal hindgut bacteria.
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Mare and Foal Nutrition Study Creates New Areas of Interest
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Morgan Pyles, a PhD student in the department of animal and food sciences at the University of Kentucky (UK), became interested in mare and foal nutrition by accident.

“When I began looking into graduate school, I was deciding between equine reproduction research and equine nutrition research,” she said. “I worked with the reproductive health group in the UK Gluck Equine Research Center for the summer after finishing my undergraduate degree and met Dr. Laurie Lawrence (PhD, professor in the department of animal and food sciences at UK) through that study. She had a graduate student position available to start that fall, which helped make my decision to study equine nutrition.”

Pyles said Lawrence already had funding available for a study in collaboration with Michael Flythe, PhD, a microbiologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service Forage-Animal Production Research Unit. The study focused on the effects of starch source on mare and foal hindgut bacteria, which became Pyles’ thesis study.

The study, entitled “Effect of Maternal Diet on Select Fecal Bacteria in Mares and Their Foals,” involved assigning pregnant Thoroughbred mares to one of two treatment groups: one group was fed an oat-based concentrate and the other group a corn- and wheat-middling-based concentrate. The team chose oats and corn as the starch sources in the pelleted concentrates because oats are considered more easily digestible for a horse, while corn and wheat middlings are slightly less so. These differences in digestibility would help demonstrate if these different starch sources in pelleted concentrates have different effects on the bacteria in the digestive tract. There were also prior studies conducted in Lawrence’s laboratory that indicated that starch sources have differential effects on the bacterial community in a horse’s hindgut

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