Studies on the immunomodulatory activities of ruminant milk and colostral whey fractions were undertaken. By comparing with boiled colostral whey in a preliminary experiment, a putative heat-labile immunostimulatory factor for antibody responses was found to be present in ovine colostral whey. Studies were then undertaken in sheep in which the efferent prefemoral lymphatic ducts were cannulated bilaterally, and immune responses in the node were measured following subcutaneous injection in the flank fold of whey protein preparations of various purities. A significant sustained decline of efferent lymphocyte output was observed following injection with autologous crude milk whey or colostral whey preparations, but no changes were observed in interferon-gamma levels in lymph plasma. Two bovine milk whey fractions (lactoperoxidase and lactoferrin) of high purity were compared in bilaterally cannulated sheep. A transient decline over the first 6 h was seen in the efferent lymphocyte output and lymph flow rate after injection of both fractions. A significant difference was seen between the two fractions in interferongamma levels in lymph at 6 h after injection. However, no significant changes in the proportion of the various efferent lymphocyte phenotypes were seen following either treatment. Whereas both fractions showed a significant inhibitory effect in a dose-dependent manner on the proliferative response of T lymphocytes, but not B lymphocytes, to mitogenic stimulation in vitro, no similar changes were seen following in vivo stimulation with these two fractions.