Respirable dust in conserved forages can pose problems with equid respiratory health, thus soaking (W) and high temperature steaming (HTS) are employed to reduce the levels in hay. The aim of this study was to characterize the viable bacterial community profile of four hays from two different locations in UK following pre-feeding wetting regimens. Hypothesis: (1) Viable microbial community profile of hays will not differ between different pre-feeding regimens. (2) Hay type and location will not influence microbial community profile. Replicates of each of the four hays were subjected to dry (D), HTS conducted in a HG600, W by submergence in 45 L tap water, 16°C for 12 hours. From each post-treated hay, 100 g samples were chopped and half (n = 36) treated with Propidium monoazide dye, the remaining half untreated. Bacterial DNA were extracted for profiling the V4-V5 region of 16S rRNA gene from all 72 samples, then sequenced on the Illumina MiSeq platform. Bioinformatics were conducted using QIIME pipeline (v1.9.1). Linear discriminate analysis effect size (LEfSe) was used to identify differences in operational taxonomic units and predicted metabolic pathways between hays and regimens. HTS reduced proportions of microbiota compared to W and D hay (P < 0.001, df 3, F 13.91), viability was reduced within regimens (P = 0.017, df 1, F 5.73). Soaking reduced diversity within and between regimens. Core bacterial communities differed between hays and regimens, however pre-feeding regimen had the greatest effect on the bacterial community profile. W and HTS reduced viable bacteria (P< 0.05) known to cause respiratory disease, for HTS both respiratory and dental disease, with the greatest reductions overall from HTS without reducing bacterial diversity. Soaking increased Gram-negative bacteria and reduced bacterial diversity. Collectively these findings add to a body of evidence that suggest HTS is the most suitable pre-feeding regimen of hay for equid health.
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