Colostrum contains factors that are protective for the neonate and may be a source of immunomodulary molecules that positively influence the immune status of the neonate. To confirm that colostrum contains a variety of cytokines with immunomodulatory properties, we established a bovine cytokine specific ELISA and five cytokines (IL-1 beta, IL-6, TNF-alpha, INF-gamma or IL-1 receptor antagonist, IL-1ra) in the whey samples from cows at different stages of lactation were monitored. The expression of cytokine mRNAs (IL-1 beta, IL-6, TNF-alpha and INF-gamma) in the colostral cells was detected by RT-PCR. The concentrations of cytokines in colostrum were significantly higher concentrations than those in the mature milk. A positive correlation was observed between the concentrations of IL-1ra and IL-1 beta in the colostrum samples. In conclusion, colostrum contains high levels of cytokines that could be produced and secreted in the mammary gland and that may have an immunomodulatory activity and influence neonatal immunity.