Factors associated with colostral specific gravity in dairy cows

D. E. Morin, P. D. Constable, F. P. Maunsell, G. C. McCoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objectives of this study were to identify factors associated with colostral specific gravity in dairy cows, as measured by a commercially available hydrometer (Colostrometer). Colostral specific gravity was measured in 1085 first-milking colostrum samples from 608 dairy cows of four breeds on a single farm during a 5-yr period. Effects of breed, lactation number, and month and year of calving on colostral specific gravity were determined, as were correlations between colostral specific gravity, nonlactating period length, and 305-d yields of milk, protein, and fat. For 75 multiparous Holstein cows, relationships between colostral specific gravity, colostral IgG1, protein, and fat concentrations, and season of calving were determined. Colostral specific gravity values were lower for Brown Swiss and Ayrshire cows than for Jersey and Holstein cows, and lower for cows entering first or second lactation than third or later lactations. Month of calving markedly affected colostral specific gravity values, with highest values occurring in autumn and lowest values in summer. In multiparous Holstein cows, colostral specific gravity was more strongly correlated with colostral protein concentration (r = 0.76) than IgG1 concentration (r = 0.53), and colostral protein concentration varied seasonally (higher in autumn than summer). Our results demonstrate that colostral specific gravity more closely reflects colostral protein concentration than IgG1 concentration and is markedly influenced by month of calving. These results highlight potential limitations of using colostral specific gravity as an indicator of IgG1 concentration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-943
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2001


  • Colostrum
  • Immunoglobulin
  • Specific gravity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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