Effect of prolactin-release inhibition on milk production and mammary gland involution at drying-off in cows.

Ollier, S., Zhao, X., and Lacasse, P. (2013). "Effect of prolactin-release inhibition on milk production and mammary gland involution at drying-off in cows.", Journal of Dairy Science (JDS), 96(1), pp. 335-343. doi : 10.3168/jds.2012-5955  Access to full text


The end of each lactation is a challenging period for high-yielding cows as they are often dried off while still producing significant quantities of milk and, consequently, are highly susceptible to new intramammary infections. Once involution is complete, the mammary gland becomes much more resistant to infection. Therefore, it is critically important to develop strategies aimed at reducing milk production before drying-off and to accelerate mammary gland involution. This study assessed the effect of inhibition of the lactogenic signal driven by prolactin (PRL) on milk production and concentrations of involution markers in mammary secretions. Sixteen Holstein cows in late lactation were assigned to treatments based on milk yield, somatic cell count, and parity. Of those cows, 8 received twice-daily intramuscular injections (2 mg per injection) of quinagolide, a specific inhibitor of PRL release, from 4 d before drying-off to 3 d after (Quin). The other 8 cows received injections of the solvent (water, control). Blood and milk (mammary secretion) samples were collected on the last 5 d before and on d 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, and 14 after the last milking. Additionally, on the day preceding the first injection and on the following day, several blood samples were collected around milking time. Quinagolide reduced basal serum PRL concentrations on all injection days as well as PRL released in blood during milking. The PRL inhibitor decreased milk production before drying-off, which averaged, over the last 3 d of lactation, 19.3 and 15.5 kg/d for the control and Quin cows, respectively. Quinagolide had no significant effect on milk citrate:lactoferrin and Na:K ratios, which decreased and increased, respectively, during the first 2 wk of the dry period. Nevertheless, the increases in the number of somatic cells and bovine serum albumin concentration during early involution were greater and matrix metalloproteinase-2 activity tended to be greater in mammary secretions of the Quin cows compared with the control cows. This experiment shows that inhibition of PRL release decreases milk production of cows in late lactation. Changes in the composition of mammary secretions suggest that this approach also hastens mammary gland involution.

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