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Five experiments, involving the hand milking of 53 farrowing sows, examined aspects of colostrum yield during and soon after farrowing. The initial and abundant yield of colostrum from a teat (averaging 6 to 10 g/min) declined after several minutes of continuous milking. Thereafter, most colostrum was released in discrete ejections, possibly caused by discrete releases of oxytocin. Colostrum ejections varied greatly in their yield and duration, and were sometimes associated with the birth of a piglet, sounds of other sows nursing, or other factors.

Teats varied greatly in their yield. During the initial minutes of milking, the most anterior teats gave, on average, 3 to 5 times more colostrum than the most posterior teats, with a nearly monotonic decline from front to rear. However, the difference between anterior and posterior teats disappeared after several minutes of continuous milking. Stimulation of the anterior teats appeared to cause the release of more colostrum than did either the stimulation of the posterior teats or no stimulation of the udder at all. A strong sucking stimulus, applied to several teats by a milking machine, elicited a large, prolonged release of colostrum.

The results suggest that (1) much of the colostrum received by newborn piglets is obtained in discrete ejections rather than in a continuous manner; (2) appropriate stimulation of the udder by the piglets may be important to elicit maximum colostrum yield; and (3) a high initial yield from anterior teats, coupled with a higher yield when anterior teats are stimulated, may help to explain the piglets' preference for anterior positions on the udder.


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