ORC Advises On Use Of Cobalt Sulfate

Published: August 26, 2009 04:43 pm EDT

The Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) advises horsepeople to be very cautious with the administration of the substance cobalt sulphate to their horses

. This mineral element is a water-soluble cobalt salt with a variety of industrial and agricultural uses, including being used as an ingredient in feed and mineral supplements.

Used in safe and appropriate formulations, the substance is known to have certain blood building qualities. However, speculation about ‘performance enhancing’ qualities are doubtful.

According to ORC Veterinarian Supervisor Dr. Bruce Duncan, horsepeople should take suitable precautions with this substance. “When administered in appropriate quantities, there is likely very little performance benefit. And when used in excess, this element can be toxic to horses.” He said that, as a general rule, horse people need to be aware of all the ingredients being administered to their animals, and an ORC licensed veterinarian should be consulted prior to introducing any new product.

The racing community is reminded that a basic aspect of good medication control is ensuring that you only use products that are properly manufactured and clearly labeled, and that have been obtained from an authorized distributor. In the case of medications, you should ensure that these have been prescribed and/or dispensed by a licensed veterinarian.

The use of medications or products that are not properly prescribed may not be in the best interest of the horse.

To view the official ORC Notice, click here.



Cobalt Sulphate is referred to as a medication. While people are "medicating" with it the product is not considered a medication by either the Vet Drug Division of Health Canada or the Feeds Directorate of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Cobalt Sulphate is commonly used as the source of Cobalt in livestock feeds. In Canada the allowable inclusion levels in Horse feeds is the range between 0.1 and 10.0 mg.kg (ppm). Few feeds will contain anywhere near the maximum.

Ewing and Charlton in The Minerals Directory state the maximum tollerable content in the diet is 10 mg/kg. Therefore a 1000 pound horse (454 kg) eacting 2.5% of its body weight in dry matter a day (11.35 kg or 25 pounds) has a maximum daily inake level of 113.5 milligrams before there is a risk of toxicity. The product can contain between 21 and 33 % cobalt depending on source. Obviously a gram then contains between 210 and 330 milligrams. It would be very difficult for the average person to accurately measure out such a small quantity.

Cobalt is a component of Vitamin B12, and B12 is involved in energy metabolism of propionate to produce glucose. This is probably the basis for the assumption that feeding cobalt will enhance performance. However the cobalt has to be incorporated in B12 first. Easier to get a vet to prescribe B12.

Signs of toxicity, Heart, Kidney and nerve damage, loss of weight and appetite, increased liver cobalt.

Hi cobalt inhibits iron absorption, and could cause anemia. Cobalt and Iron are absorbed at the same sites in the intestines.

J.A. Davidson, P.Ag, PAS
Livestock Nutritionist (Equine Certified)

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