In vitro gas production studies are routinely used to assess the metabolic capacity of intestinal microbiota to ferment dietary fibre sources. The faecal inocula used during the in vitro gas production procedure are most often obtained from animals adapted to a certain diet. The present study was designed to assess whether 19 days of adaptation to a diet are sufficient for faecal inocula of pigs to reach a stable microbial composition and activity as determined by in vitro gas production. Eighteen multiparous sows were allotted to one of two treatments for three weeks: a diet high in fibre (H) or a diet low in fibre (L). After this 3-week period, the H group was transferred to the low fibre diet (HL-treatment) while the L group was transferred to the diet high in fibre (LH-treatment). Faecal samples were collected from each sow at 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16 and 19 days after the diet change and prepared as inoculum used for incubation with three contrasting fermentable substrates: oligofructose, soya pectin and cellulose. In addition, inocula were characterised using a phylogenetic microarray targeting the pig gastrointestinal tract microbiota. Time after diet change had an effect (P<0.05) on total gas production for the medium–fast fermentable substrates; soya pectin and oligofructose. For the more slowly fermentable cellulose, all measured fermentation parameters were consistently higher (P<0.05) for animals in the HL-treatment. Diet changes led to significant changes in relative abundance of specific bacteria, especially for members of the Bacteroidetes and Bacilli, which, respectively, increased or decreased for the LH-treatment, while changes were opposite for the HL-treatment. Changing the diet of sows led to changes in fermentation activity of the faecal microbiota and in composition of the microbiota over time. Adaptation of the microbiota as assessed by gas production occurred faster for LH-animals for fast fermentable substrates compared with HL-animals. Overall, adaptation of the large intestinal microbiota of sows as a result of ingestion of low and high fibre diets seems to take longer than 19 days, especially for the ability to ferment slowly fermentable substrates.