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J Dairy Sci. 2014 May;97(5):2923-31. doi: 10.3168/jds.2013-7795. Epub 2014 Mar 13.

Peripartal progesterone and prolactin have little effect on the rapid transport of immunoglobulin G into colostrum of dairy cows.

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Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, CH-3001 Bern, Switzerland.
Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University, Foulum, DK-8830 Tjele, Denmark.
Department of Animal Science, Penn State University, University Park 16802.
Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, CH-3001 Bern, Switzerland. Electronic address:


Colostrum formation and lactogenesis in the mammary gland and the timing of parturition are regulated by endocrine signals. Changes in progesterone (P4) and prolactin (PRL) are considered key events that inhibit colostrum formation, trigger parturition, and signal the onset of lactation. The goal of our study was to determine if colostrum yield and composition and immunoglobulin transfer are affected by prepartum milking relative to the decrease in P4, peak of PRL, or occurrence of parturition. Twenty-three multiparous cows were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: (1) control with first milking at 4h postcalving (CON, n=11), and (2) treatment group with first milking approximately 1d before calving and second milking at 4h after parturition (APM, n=12). Colostrum yields were recorded and proportional samples were analyzed for immunoglobulin G (IgG) concentration. Blood plasma samples for the analyses of P4 and PRL were collected 3 times daily at 8-h intervals for 4d prepartum and again taken at 4h after parturition. Total colostrum mass of APM cows was higher than that of CON cows. Immunoglobulin G concentration and protein content did not differ between antepartum milking in APM cows and postpartum milking in CON cows. Colostrum IgG concentration and protein content in APM cows at the postpartum milking were lower compared with the IgG concentration established at the prepartum (APM) and postpartum milkings of CON cows. Immunoglobulin G mass did not differ in first and second colostrum collection in APM cows but was lower compared with that of CON cows. The sum of IgG mass in APM cows (prepartum + postpartum collections) did not differ from that of CON cows. Lactose and fat in milk (concentration and mass) increased from first to second milking in APM cows. Total mass of lactose and fat in APM cows (prepartum + postpartum collections) was greater compared with that of CON cows. The finding that the time of milking relative to parturition, P4 decrease, and PRL peak slightly affected yield and quality of colostrum emphasizes the complex interactions of numerous endocrine and morphological changes occurring during colostrogenesis and lactogenesis in dairy cows. The considerably rapid transfer of immunoglobulins into colostrum of prepartum-milked cows within a few hours leads to the hypothesis that the transfer of IgG can be very fast and-contrary to earlier findings-persist at least until parturition.


colostrogenesis; colostrum; dairy cow; immunoglobulin G; lactogenesis

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