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A Pepper a Day Keeps the Vet Away

Phytonutrients from peppers protect transition cows from disease.

Fifty percent of cows will experience one or more metabolic or infectious disease following calving, according to field surveys done by Penn State Extension. During this time, a cow's metabolic needs increase dramatically, and how she copes with this high-energy transition period influences how well she performs during the rest of the lactation.

Alex Hristov, professor of dairy nutrition, has been experimenting with various dietary supplements to bolster the immune systems of these "transition" cows. He has focused on the intestinal effects of phytonutrients in dairy cows, especially capsicum oleoresin from chili peppers.

He has found that these phytonutrients are beneficial for immune suppression of inflammation disease in dairy cows. Follow-up studies are unfolding in Hristov's lab in collaboration with a Swiss company to develop a rumen-protected capsicum product to reliably deliver the benefits of phytonutrients to cows' immune systems.

--Jeff Mulhollem