Six pregnant heifers, coming from a herd with a history of high concentration of Polychlorobifenyls (PCB) into the milk, were fed with a very low-PCB diet starting from the 6th month of pregnancy. After parturition cows were milked for at least 190 d with a maximum of 270 d. Diet was made of: corn silage (31.7% of DMI), dehydrated alfalfa (13.3% of DMI), grass hay (3.7% of DMI) and concentrate (51.3% of DMI). The average DMI was 23.12 kg/d. Milk production was recorded and samples of milk and blood were taken and analyzed for PCB (18, 28, 31, 52, 44, 101, 149, 118, 153, 138, 180 and 194 congeners) content using a GC-MS technique. The average milk yield (kg/d) of the 6 cows was 26.0, 22.5, 23.2, 24.5, 28.9, 29.3. The maximum PCB concentration of 100 ng/g of fat allowed by the Italian law was reached after 144-209 days of lactation. One animal after 204 days had a PCB concentration of 102 ng/g fat. If log(10) of PCB concentration (ppb) in milk fat is regressed against days in milking (DIM) the following significant equation was obtained:
log(10) PCB (ng/g of milk fat)=
2.796 -0.00474 DIM; r(2) 0.72; P<0.01
The initial level of contamination is not the main factor affecting the time required in order for PCB to return to below the legal threshold of 100 ng/g fat, while daily milk yield significantly affects PCB excretion. Body condition and energy balance could be important factors affecting PCB excretion.
In the presence of high contamination, about 6 months of lactation are required in order to obtain milk with a sufficiently low PCB content.
Among the seven congeners considered by Italian legislation, PCB 101, PCB 118, PCB 138, PCB 153 constitute almost all the PCBs found in tissues and milk, with a much smaller presence of PCB 180, and the numbers of the congeners PCB 28 and PCB 52 are almost insignificant, probably because they accumulate little in the body.
The congeners PCB 138 and PCB 153 are those most frequently found. For PCB 138 the liver is the principal organ of accumulation, while for PCB 153 we found equal accumulations in the liver, kidneys and tail, but a low presence in milk. The PCBs 118 and 138 are those most abundant in milks.