While the Complement protein system in human milk is well characterised, there is little information on its presence and activity in bovine milk. Complement forms part of the innate immune system, hence the importance of its contribution during milk ingestion to the overall defences of the neonate. A bactericidal sequestration assay, featuring a Complement sensitive strain, Escherichia coli 0111, originally used to characterise Complement activity in human milk was successfully applied to freshly drawn bovine milk samples, thus, providing an opportunity to compare Complement activities in both human and bovine milks. Although not identical in response, the levels of Complement activity in bovine milk were found to be closely comparable with that of human milk. Differential counts of Esch. coli 0111 after 2 h incubation were 6·20 and 6·06 log CFU/ml, for raw bovine and human milks, respectively – the lower value representing a stronger Complement response. Exposing bovine milk to a range of thermal treatments e.g. 42, 45, 65, 72, 85 or 95 °C for 10 min, progressively inhibited Complement activity by increasing temperature, thus confirming the heat labile nature of this immune protein system. Low level Complement activity was found, however, in 65 and 72 °C heat treated samples and in retailed pasteurised milk which highlights the outer limit to which high temperature, short time (HTST) industrial thermal processes should be applied if retention of activity is a priority. Concentration of Complement in the fat phase was evident following cream separation, and this was also reflected in the further loss of activity recorded in low fat variants of retailed pasteurised milk. Laboratory-based churning of the cream during simulated buttermaking generated an aqueous (buttermilk) phase with higher levels of Complement activity than the fat phase, thus pointing to a likely association with the milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) layer.