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FULLY FUNDED PHD: Development of an in vitro system to estimate total tract digestibility in horses

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, February 28, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


This is a collaboration between Professor Jo-Anne Murray, School of Veterinary Medicine, WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute and the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester.

This project will build on the existing collaboration between the School of Veterinary Medicine and WALTHAM further progressing the joint initiative of optimising diet, digestibility and gut health.

The project aims to develop and evaluate an improved in vitro system to estimate digestibility in horses.

Measuring in vivo digestibility is laborious, time-consuming and expensive. Consequently, in vitro methods have been developed for many species, including horses, as a means of estimating in vivo digestibility.

Much of this work has been done in ruminants using the Tilley and Terry methodology to simulate the rumen and small intestinal environment. Recently, a more efficient alternative to the Tilley and Terry technique has been developed using the Daisy Incubator.

In horses, much of the in vitro work has focussed on simulating the large intestinal environment, with a limited number of studies simulating pre-caecal digestion in vitro.

Moreover, this simulated foregut digestion has typically been based on protocols developed for pigs with limited validation of its use in horses.

The majority of information available on pre-caecal digestibility of feedstuffs in horses has been ascertained using surgically modified horses; which has ethical as well as cost implications making such an approach unsustainable.

Consequently, there is a need to develop and evaluate an in vitro system that better estimates total tract digestibility in horses.

This project will involve a combination of non-invasive in vivo and in vitro approaches to develop and optimise an in vitro system to estimate digestibility in the different regions of the equine gastrointestinal tract.

The aim is to reduce the reliance on in vivo studies and help inform feeding strategies that optimise animal performance whilst maintaining or improving gut health and animal welfare.

Funding Notes

This project is funded under the auspices of the Industrial Partnership Scheme and is part-funded by industry.

Stipend: £15,009

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