Bovine colostrum (BC) is the first milk produced by cows after calving and contains numerous beneficial substances for the immunity and development of the newborn calf. Because of the growth and immune factors in BC, it has become an attractive supplement for use by athletes to support immunity and health during athletic performance. In order to evaluate the effects of oral BC supplementation on equine athletes, this study evaluated the earnings, performance, recovery and incidence of upper respiratory infections (URTI) in racing horses. The study design was a randomized cross-over racing performance study. 21 horses in race training were randomly assigned to train and compete with or without BC supplementation. After each horse competed in three races, it was crossed over to the other group, allowed a three week washout period, and then competed in three additional races. Horses in public training stables of 3 participating trainers were used. Race performance as determined by earnings, Bloodstock Research Information System (BRIS) speed figures, recovery as determined by number of days between races and incidence of upper respiratory tract disease was recorded. 11 horses completed the study. There was no effect of the order of BC supplementation on the measured variables. Horses on BC supplementation earned $ 2,088 more purse money per race, than when unsupplemented (P = 0.016), and ran an average of 5 BRIS speed points higher (P = 0.03). Horses returned to racing on average 7.5 days faster (16.9 days vs 24.4 days, P = 0.048). There were no URTI among the horses on BC supplementation and two infections while not on BC supplementation (z-test, P = 0.11). Statistical analysis showed that horses recovered more quickly, earned three times more money and raced better as judged by BRIS scores while competing with BC supplementation. BC supplemented horses also experienced fewer URTI, although this effect was not significant.

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Published in Comparative Exercise Physiology, v. 10, no. 4, p. 233-238.

© 2014 Wageningen Academic Publishers

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

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We thank The Saskatoon Colostrum Company, Ltd. for providing PETerna™, and Animal Healthcare Products and Packaging, Inc. for providing funding for this project.

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Published as Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station Article 14-14-052 with approval of the Dean and Director, College of Agriculture and Kentucky Agricultural Experimental Station.