INRA Study Looks at Colostrum Production by Gilts

FRANCE - Colostrum yield averaged 3.22kg for the 16 gilts studied but varied between individuals. Those with a low colostrum yield synthesised less lactose and had delayed hormonal changes before parturition.
calendar icon 28 April 2010
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H. Quesnel at INRA in Rennes and co-authors there and at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have published a paper in Journal of Animal Science investigating the relationship between colostrum production by primiparous sows and sow physiology around parturition.

They explain that the relationships between hormonal and metabolic changes around parturition and colostrum yield and composition were investigated in 16 Landrace × Large White primiparous sows.

Blood samples were taken daily from day 105 of pregnancy to day 2 post-partum (with day 0 being the day of parturition). Colostrum samples were taken at the onset of parturition (T0), and then 3, 6 and 24 hours later (T3, T6 and T24, respectively).

Colostrum yield was calculated from the beginning of parturition until 24 hours later by adding colostrum intake of individual piglets, which was estimated from their body weight (BW) gain.

Colostrum yield averaged 3.22 ± 0.34kg. Four sows had very low colostrum production (1.10 ± 0.12kg; n=4), whereas the others produced between 2.83 and 4.64 kg of colostrum (3.93 ± 0.16kg; n=12).

Compared with the high-colostrum-producing sows, the low-colostrum-producing sows tended (P<0.1) to have greater plasma concentrations of progesterone during the 20-hours prepartum and tended (P<0.1) to have smaller plasma concentrations of prolactin 40 and 30 hours before parturition. Sows with a low colostrum yield had greater plasma concentrations of glucose than sows with a high colostrum yield from day –9 to –2 (P<0.05).

At the onset of parturition, colostrum from low-producing sows had greater percentages (P<0.01) of dry matter, lipids and gross energy but less (P<0.05) lactose than that from high-producing sows.

The Na:K ratio in colostrum during the six hours postpartum was greater (P<0.01) in low-producing sows than in high-producing sows, indicating that cellular junctions between epithelial mammary cells were less tightly closed.

Concentrations of IgG in colostrum varied greatly between sows and decreased by approximately 80 per cent between T0 and T24. Within high-producing sows, concentrations of IgG in colostrum at T0, T3 and T6 were negatively correlated (P<0.05) with lactose concentrations in colostrum at the same times and were positively correlated (P<0.05) with plasma concentrations of IGF-I measured from days –9 to 0.

In contrast, no correlation (P>0.1) was found between IgG concentrations in colostrum at any time and prolactin, oestradiol-17β, progesterone or cortisol.

Quesnel and co-authors concluded that sows that produce a low yield of colostrum are characterised by a leaky mammary epithelium and reduced synthesis of lactose, related to delayed hormonal changes before parturition.


Foisnet A., C. Farmer, C. David and H. Quesnel. 2010. Relationships between colostrum production by primiparous sows and sow physiology around parturition. J. Anim Sci. 2010. 88:1672-1683. doi:10.2527/jas.2009-2562.

Further Reading

- You can view the full paper (fee payable) by clicking here.
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