Our objective was to determine the relative importance of the macronutrient components of colostrum in the stimulation of vital organ protein synthesis in neonatal pigs. We studied colostrum-deprived newborn pigs within 4-6 h after birth (unfed) and three groups fed for 24 h mature milk, colostrum, or a formula containing a macronutrient composition comparable to that of colostrum. We measured protein synthesis in vivo using a flooding dose of 3H-phenylalanine. The fractional rates of protein synthesis (Ks) in the brain, heart, lung, kidney and spleen were significantly higher in all fed groups than in the unfed newborns. Among the three fed groups, brain and heart protein synthesis rates were greater in colostrum-fed than in either milk- or formula-fed pigs. Kidney and spleen protein synthesis rates in colostrum- and formula-fed pigs were not significantly different, but both were higher than in milk-fed pigs. The stimulation of kidney protein synthesis in response to feeding was primarily a consequence of greater protein synthetic efficiency; however, protein synthetic capacity in the heart, lung and spleen was generally greater in colostrum- and formula-fed pigs than in unfed newborns. Our results suggest that the predominant stimulus for vital organ protein synthesis in colostrum-fed neonatal pigs is nutrient intake. However, there was a specific stimulation of both brain and heart protein synthesis in colostrum-fed pigs that cannot be attributed to macronutrients.