Colostrum, the nutrient and immunoglobulin-dense first milk produced by a mare for their newborn offspring, gives newborns the key immune-regulating compounds necessary to develop a healthy immune system.
While other species transfer these immunoglobulins through placental transfer and/or mammary secretions, horses can only transfer these essential immune-boosting components via colostrum. Once the immunoglobulins are in a foal's system, they bind to bacteria, toxins and other macromolecules, which prevents them from being absorbed into the blood stream, and thus boosting the foal's immune response.
While colostrum is essential for the survival of young foals, can it be of benefit to adult horses? Immunoglobulins are large proteins, which prevents them from being absorbed directly into the blood stream of an animal more than a few hours old. One would assume, then, that colostrum and the immunoglobulins it contains would pass through an adult horse's system un-absorbed.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Aarhus University in Denmark and the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada explored the process and found that a portion of these large protein molecules are transported across the intestinal lining intact, which allows it to still have the ability to bind to an antigen.
In other words, giving colostrum to adults can actually have a positive effect on their health.
According to author Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D., bovine colostrum is the best option for supplementing an adult horse's diet, as it is richer than other mammal's colostrum in immunoglobulins, which offers improved protection against bacterial and viral infections and is very low in lactose (adult horses are naturally lactose intolerant).
Getty explains that the use of colostrum supplementation in adults is not new. Bovine colostrum has been used in humans to treat a wide variety of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory allergies, prevention and treatment of infections in the gastrointestinal tract and even to help children suffering from HIV in Africa to gain weight, strength and energy.
While there have yet to be studies published regarding the benefits and effects of bovine colostrum supplementation in adult horses, Getty suggests that based on scientific principals, it could have a positive impact on horses with allergies, gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers, obesity, musculoskeletal issues, insulin resistance and respiratory disease, among other ailments.
Read more at Horse Journals.
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