Prebiotics are used to support the gastrointestinal health via stimulating particular beneficial parts of the autochthonous microflora and enhancing their metabolism. Horses often suffer from gastrointestinal disturbances after feed changes or behavioral stress in response to transport. Therefore, the supplementation with prebiotic compounds might reduce the risk for intestinal dysregulation. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of supplementation with Jerusalem artichoke meal (JAM) in a recommended prebiotic dosage on fermentation characteristics in the equine gastrointestinal tract.
The equine digestive tract is prone to health disturbances, predominantly after feed changes and overload with easily fermentable carbohydrates. This is usually accompanied by alterations in the diversity and activity of the intestinal microbiota. Prebiotics are supposed to have the potency to promote the guts’ health by providing substrates selectively for particular beneficial indigenous microorganisms. In horse feeding, inulin-type fructans with different chain length such as short chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scFOS) or inulin itself are implemented as prebiotic substances. Depending on the amount of intake, both inulin- and phlein-type fructans (the latter deriving from vegetative parts of temperate grasses) have either critical or beneficial properties. Moreover, the quantity of fermentation products such as short chain fatty acids (SCFA) and lactate varies with the dosage and the composition of the supplemental feed. Feeding scFOS in low (8 g/d) or high (24 g/d) amounts increases the content of total and individual SCFA in the feces of yearling horses. Contrary, the addition of 30 g scFOS/d to a diet for adult horses failed to influence the concentration of SCFA in both caecum and colon content. Except for these studies, there is a lack of knowledge dealing with the impact of prebiotics on fermentative parameters in the entire gastrointestinal tract. The passed down assumption, however, that prebiotics will exclusively be fermented in the hindgut might not be transferred to horse nutrition. Fermentation gasses in the breath following inulin ingestion indicate that microbial fermentation already starts in the lower tract.