Retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) is a plasma protein involved in retinol transportation, and recent evidence in rodents suggests that RBP4 is also a metabolic regulator that modifies insulin sensitivity. To assess how RBP4 levels are regulated in ruminants, we determined the RBP4 concentrations in bovine plasma and milk using Western blot analysis. Plasma RBP4 levels in non-pregnant non-lactating (control) cows were around 45 μg/ml, which were sustained during 60-h fasting, but decreased significantly 4 h after lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration. Basal plasma retinol concentration was around 30 μg/dl, but this decreased to approximately one-third and one-half of these values during fasting and 8 h after LPS challenge, respectively. Plasma RBP4 and retinol levels in cows 3–6 d before parturition were comparable to those of the controls. However, on the day of parturition both were significantly decreased and had returned to basal levels by two weeks after calving. Interestingly, RBP4 was clearly detected in colostrum (16·4±5·6 μg/ml) but was only faintly detected in milk from cows at 7 d and 15 d after calving. Retinol concentrations in colostrum were almost 10-fold higher than those in plasma, while those in milk were comparable to those in plasma. These results suggest that RBP4 and retinol levels are independently regulated under physiological and pathophysiological conditions and that RBP4, like retinol, is transferred from maternal stores to calves through colostrum.