The effects of cabergoline, an ergot derivative and dopamine receptor agonist, were investigated in 30 ewes of 2 dairy breeds (Manchega; MN, n = 15; Lacaune; LC, n = 15). Ewes were in a similar late-lactation stage, but differed in milk yield according to breed (MN vs. LC, 1.02 ± 0.03 vs. 2.27 ± 0.05 kg/d). Treatments consisted of a single intramuscular injection of cabergoline at different doses per ewe. Cabergoline doses (per ewe) were: low (0.56 mg), high (1.12 mg), and control (CON; 0 mg; 1 mL of saline). Milk yield was recorded daily (d −14 to 25), milk and blood were sampled, and udder traits were measured from d −2 to 14 after injection. No local reaction at the injection site, nor behavior and metabolic indicators of the ewes were detected after the cabergoline injection, but milk yield fell rapidly in both breeds (MN vs. LC, −54% vs. −27%) when compared with CON ewes. Cabergoline effects progressively disappeared after d 5, and no milk yield differences between treatments were detected from d 8 to 25 after injection. Milk fat and protein contents increased similarly (22% and 23%; respectively) in both breeds and at both cabergoline doses until d 5, and the effects disappeared thereafter. Plasma prolactin (PRL) decreased dramatically in the low- and high-treated ewes the day after injection when compared with the CON ewes, and reached values below the detection limit of the assay between d 1 and 5, increasing similarly thereafter. On d 14, PRL values were 58% greater in the low- and high-treated than in the CON ewes, showing that PRL concentrations rebounded when the cabergoline effects ceased. Total udder volume correlated with milk accumulated in the udder (r = 0.77) of all groups of ewes throughout the experiment, suggesting its use as a noninvasive method for the estimation of milk stored in the udder. Udder volume was similar for the low and high ewes, but both values were lower than those of the CON ewes from d 1 to 14 after injection. No other effects on udder size were detected. Cabergoline dramatically inhibited PRL secretion and decreased milk yield and udder volume of lactating dairy ewes. The low dose of cabergoline was as effective as the high dose in the 2 breeds of dairy ewes. These results suggest the use of cabergoline to facilitate the decrease of milk production in dairy ewes (e.g., dry-off, illness care), although further research in pregnant dairy ewes and during the following lactation is still needed.
- dairy sheep
- milk secretion