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Induced lactation in heifers: Effects of dexamethasone and age at induction on milk yield and composition

Macrina, A.L., Kauf, A.C.W., Pape-Zambito, D.A., Kensinger, R.S.
Journal of dairy science 2014 v.97 no.3 pp. 1446-1453
Holstein, body weight, cell differentiation, colostrum, cows, dairy protein, dexamethasone, epithelium, heifers, immunoglobulin G, lactation, lactose, mammary development, mammary glands, milk, milk fat percentage, milk yield, milking, profitability, progesterone, somatotropin
Milk production in heifers induced into lactation is lower than that of postpartum primiparous cows. A method to improve milk production in induced lactations may provide opportunities for increased profitability as well as increase our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate mammary gland development and colostrum composition. The present study was conducted to determine if dexamethasone administration at the onset of milking or age at lactation induction would affect milk production in heifers induced into lactation. Holstein heifers at 14 [n=20; 354±38 kg of body weight (BW)] and 18mo of age (n=20; 456±30kg of BW) were assigned randomly to dexamethasone (DEX) or control (CON) treatment groups in a 2× 2 factorial arrangement with age and dexamethasone treatment as the 2 factors. Heifers were induced into lactation with daily subcutaneous injections of estradiol-17β and progesterone (0.075 and 0.25 mg/kg of BW per d, respectively) on experimental d 1 to 7. They also received bovine somatotropin (bST) every 14d beginning on experimental d 1. Milking began on experiment d 18 (lactation d 1). Dexamethasone (10mg) was administered on lactation d 1 and 2 following the morning milking; CON heifers did not receive dexamethasone. Milk yield from d2 to 15 of lactation of heifers receiving DEX (7.8kg/d) was greater than that of CON heifers (6.0 kg/d) but was similar thereafter through 305d of lactation (18.2kg/d). Milk production to d 11 was similar for 14- and 18-mo-old heifers but was greater for 18- (18.9kg/d) than for 14-mo-old animals (17.4kg/d) through 305 d in milk. Milk fat percentage increased initially and was greater in DEX (4.51%) compared with CON (3.53%) heifers until 21d in milk. Milk protein and lactose concentrations were not affected by DEX treatment. Age at induction did not affect milk fat, protein, or lactose percentages. Mean milk IgG concentration declined from 107.4mg/mL on d 1 to 5.0mg/mL on d 7 of lactation, tended to be greater for 18- compared with 14-mo-old heifers, and was not different due to DEX treatment. Administration of DEX to heifers induced into lactation increased initial milk production during the first 2 wk of lactation but this effect did not persist through 305 DIM. Treatment with DEX appeared to stimulate mammary cell differentiation but did not change the rate of decline of milk IgG concentrations. Higher milk yield in 18-mo-old heifers may be due to greater mammary epithelium, higher body mass, or both.