Animal science concerns the production and management of livestock and domestic animals. Animal scientists apply biological, physical, and social sciences to understand and study animals’ physiology, behavior, welfare, nutrition, genetics, and diseases. The animal sciences industry is becoming increasingly important as consumers continually seek higher quality food and finite land limits food production for the world’s growing population. These issues and others require innovative animal scientists and offer opportunities for quality, high-paying jobs.
The equine industry is an important part of animal science, particularly for Lexington. Horses are a major part of Lexington’s economy and are at the heart of the local culture. From streets named after famous racehorses to citywide horse-themed public art, Lexington is truly a horse city. According to VisitLEX, there are approximately 150 horse farms in Lexington and about 450 in the Region. Horse farms typically focus on a specific horse breed and farms in the Bluegrass Region tend to specialize in breeding and training Thoroughbred horses for racing. In addition to these farms, Lexington is home to the Keeneland Race Track, the Red Mile Harness Track, the National Reining Championship, the Kentucky Horse Park, the International Museum of the Horse, the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event, and equestrian retirement facilities such as Old Friends Farm. Nearly 73,000 direct and indirect jobs are supported by Kentucky’s horse industry and the University of Kentucky has become a leader in animal science and equine research to support this robust sector.
UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY’S EQUINE RESEARCH
The University of Kentucky formalized its commitment to Kentucky’s equine industry by creating the Ag Equine Programs in 2005, originally named the Equine Initiative. The Ag Equine Programs is a multidisciplinary umbrella organization representing all equine activities, services, and expertise within UK’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. Equine faculty, staff, and students collaborate to advance equine health, performance, and management and to improve Kentucky’s equine industry.
The Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center is a premier equine research facility whose programs include genetics and genomics, immunology, infectious diseases, musculoskeletal sciences, parasitology, reproductive health, and pharmacology, therapeutics, and toxicology. In 2016, more than 80 faculty, staff, and graduate students were engaged in equine research, supported by approximately 20 extramural research grants totaling over $1 million annually.
INFRASTRUCTURE BUILT FOR THE HORSE INDUSTRY
Lexington and the Bluegrass Region have a strong infrastructure to support the horse industry, including horse farms, racetracks, the Kentucky Horse Park, museums, equestrian events, equine medical facilities, and research and development at the University of Kentucky. Lexington is also home to the best equine medical facilities in the world, including Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.
Lexington is home to two historic race tracks: The Red Mile and Keeneland. The Red Mile Harness Track is the second oldest harness track in the country, known for its one-mile track made of red clay. However, Keeneland is the more prominent racing facility. Every year, Keeneland draws the world’s best horses and thousands of people who flock to Keeneland to bet on the horses and spend time enjoying the festive atmosphere.
In 2015, Lexington hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championship at Keeneland for the first time, producing an economic impact of $65 million, based on previous cities. After the successful debut in 2015, the Breeder’s Cup World Championship will return to Keeneland in 2020.
Click here to read Commerce Lexington’s Animal Sciences White Paper.