Post-ruminal supplies of glucose and casein, but not acetate, stimulate milk protein synthesis in dairy cows through differential effects on mammary metabolism

J Dairy Sci. 2020 Jul;103(7):6218-6232. doi: 10.3168/jds.2019-18086. Epub 2020 May 14.


Amino acids and glucose have been shown to regulate protein synthesis in the mammary gland through their effects on cellular signaling pathways. Acetate might also have an effect on protein synthesis via the AMP-activated kinase signaling pathway, because it is the main energy source for the mammary secretory cell. Thus, the objective of this experiment was to evaluate the effects of casein and energy-yielding nutrients (acetate and glucose), and their combination, on performance and mammary metabolism. Six multiparous Holstein cows, averaging 49 kg of milk/d, were used in a 6 × 6 Latin square design with 14-d periods. Cows were fed to 100% National Research Council requirements for metabolizable protein (MP) and energy (ME) for 9 d, after which they were feed-restricted for 5 d to 85% of their individual ad libitum intake and then abomasally infused with 1 of 6 treatments. Treatments were acetate (A), glucose (G), each at 5% of ad libitum ME intake, casein (C) at 15% of ad libitum MP intake, A + C, G + C, or a saline solution (negative control). Casein infused alone increased milk protein yield numerically, with 25% recovery of the infused casein in milk protein. Glucose infused alone increased milk and milk protein yield and promoted the highest efficiency of nitrogen utilization (37%), with an efficiency of MP use for milk protein of 58%. We discovered no effect of treatment on mammary plasma flow, and the increase in milk protein yield with glucose infusion was brought about by greater mammary AA clearance rate. Infusion of casein and glucose together further increased milk protein yield in an additive fashion, and 47% of the infused casein was recovered in milk protein. Acetate infused alone had no effect on milk protein yield but increased milk fat yield numerically, suggesting that the greater amount of acetate taken up by the mammary gland was used for milk fat synthesis. Infusion of acetate and casein together yielded responses similar to those of casein alone. In conclusion, glucose has a major effect on stimulating milk protein synthesis, and the mammary gland has the ability to increase its supply of nutrients to match its synthetic capacity.

Keywords: abomasal infusions; amino acids; energy; nitrogen efficiency.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Veterinary

MeSH terms

  • Abomasum / metabolism
  • Acetates / analysis
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Caseins / administration & dosage*
  • Caseins / metabolism
  • Cattle*
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity
  • Gastrointestinal Tract
  • Glucose / administration & dosage*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / drug effects
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism*
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Milk Proteins / analysis
  • Milk Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Protein Biosynthesis


  • Acetates
  • Amino Acids
  • Caseins
  • Milk Proteins
  • Glucose