Updated: Jun 14, 2019
Firmicutes are major contributors of health in the equine biome.
What do they do?
Firmicutes produce butyrate, an important short chain fatty acid, active in replacing and renewing the gut wall, repairing tissue damage and aiding recovery after illness. Butyrate is a source of nutrition for gut wall cells and a reduction in levels of firmicutes means a decrease in clostridium and a decrease in fermentation within the caecum and less food for the gut wall.
Butyrate influences the immune system and is anti -inflammatory.
What level should they be at?
Published research has indicated that a level of 48% reduces the chance of colic, in horses with colitis the levels are below 30%. The average percentage of firmicutes in the wild Carneddau are a third higher than domesticated horses.
The average percentage of firmicutes from over 1,000 horses taking the Equbiome test is 29%.
What does this mean?
A reduction in the gut wall integrity?
An increase in inflammation?
A decrease in the immune response?
An increased risk of colic through poor fermentation in the hind gut?
How do we fix the problem?
Feed the firmicutes.
Processing food ie micronizing, chopping, cooking, pelleting increases the nutrient availability and the calories to the host (horse) but severely reduces the food for the gut bacteria. Firmicutes like complex fibre to digest, they like plant polyphenols and they like variety.
What to feed?
Hay and diverse pasture, as many dried herbs in small amounts as possible, as many native grass species as you can find, go hedgerow grazing, the hedgerow is often the last bastion for many of our native species. Feed a handful of whole oats and most importantly enjoy the journey!.