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Publications

Dairy cattle require a dry period between successive lactations to ensure optimal milk production. Because prolactin (PRL) is necessary for the initiation and maintenance of milk production, strategies that can inhibit PRL secretion might hasten the involution process. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of the PRL release inhibitor cabergoline on markers of mammary gland involution during the early dry period. To assess the effect of cabergoline treatment on mammary gland involution, 14 Holstein dairy cows in late lactation were treated with either a single i.m. administration of 5.6 mg of cabergoline (Velactis, Ceva Santé Animale, Libourne, France, n = 7) or placebo (n = 7) at the time of dry-off. Blood samples and mammary secretion samples were collected 6 d before dry-off and again 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 14 d following the abrupt cessation of lactation. Blood samples were used to determine plasma PRL concentrations. Mammary secretion samples were used to determine somatic cell count, milk fat, lactose, true protein content, and concentrations of α-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, and citrate. Following the cessation of lactation, changes in mammary secretion composition indicated diminished milk synthesis, including reduced concentrations of α-lactalbumin, citrate, and lactose. In contrast, milk somatic cell count, percent total protein, percent fat content, and lactoferrin concentrations significantly increased as involution progressed. Cabergoline treatment decreased the plasma PRL concentrations during the first week of dry-off, compared with the control treatment. No significant differences in citrate, α-lactalbumin, or protein content were observed between treatment groups. The most dramatic changes in secretion composition as a consequence of cabergoline treatment occurred during the first week of the dry period, when lactose concentrations and the citrate:lactoferrin molar ratio were lower and lactoferrin concentrations higher than in the control cows. Cabergoline treatment also tended to increase fat content and somatic cell count more rapidly following dry-off compared with the control group. These changes in mammary secretion composition following the abrupt cessation of lactation indicate that cabergoline treatment facilitated dry-off and effectively accelerated mammary gland involution.

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