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Improve your small ruminant milking routine Part 1: Sheep & Goat milk production at a glance

Let’s investigate how to improve your small ruminant milking process, starting from understanding the sheep and goat’s milk production landscape.

 Small ruminants differ from cows  in terms of both mammary features and milk properties. These peculiarities ultimately determine a distinction in milking routine and machine settings that, if underestimated, could seriously threaten animal health and process efficiency.

 Throughout these episodes, we thus highlight some of the essential small ruminants’ traits, indispensable for understanding the most common mistakes made by farmers while milking sheep and goats. Our Regional Sales Managers Marcel Fernandez, dealing with France, and Abdelrahman El Ashkar, in charge of North Africa, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, as well as Javier Gayo, our Regional Sales Director for Southern Europe, supported us by sharing their expert opinions on the topic, along with some good practice and valuable allies to improve your small ruminant milking routine.

 Why small ruminant milk?

As Figure 1 shows, sheep and goat’s milk production have both been rising, especially in the last 30 years.


Figure 1 - World Production Milk goat vs. sheep


One of the reasons behind the success of small ruminant dairy products is that they are more easily digestible compared to cow ones. Since the determining factor seems to be the level of lactose contained in each animal’s milk, we decided browse through the main nutrients and properties of both goat and sheep dairy, for further insights on the benefits they could have for our health.

  • Goat’s milk is rich in nutrients such as A2 protein and oligosaccharides, that stimulate the growth of beneficial gut probiotic bacteria. Moreover, along with lower lactose levels, fat globules in goat milk are smaller, while medium-chain fatty acids, a quick source of energy, are higher than in cow’s milk.
  • Sheep’s milk is significantly rich in fats and proteins, such as A2, Vitamin B12, and folate. As in goat’s milk, fat globules and lactose levels are smaller, whereas fatty-chain acids are high.

Small ruminant physical properties

 Beside the nutritional values, sheep and goats differ from cows in terms of physical features, that imply distinct milking routine strategies as well as milking machine settings. In terms of small ruminants’ mammary gland anatomy, as their udder compartment is larger, they have a better tolerance for extension of milking intervals. Under the skin bag, the udder contains two independent mammary glands wrapped in elastic connective tissue. Each gland consists of a larger cistern where milk is stored, and composed of a glandular and a teat one.

 As for the milk yield amount, our experts underlined how sheep and goats have larger cisternal udders compared to cows, leading to higher amounts of milk stored in them, as Table 1 shows.


 Table 1 - Cow, sheep and goat cisternal milk levels compared

Source: Review: Milking routines and cluster detachment levels in small ruminants

 What does this mean in terms of milking routine? While cows’ teats need to be cleaned and stimulated to release oxytocin, small ruminants’ greater volumes of cisternal milk allow the ejection to be induced along with the start of the milking, reducing both the duration and the need for a pre-milking preparation stage. Though it is highly recommended in mastitis infection. After this introduction on small ruminant milk production and its distinctive features, are you eager to learn more about good milking practice and to get useful advice? Make sure not to miss our next blog episode with more suggestions from our three experts!

 milkrite | InterPuls thank Marcel Fernandez, Abdelrahman El Ashkar, and Javier Gaio for their support.


  • Goat and sheep’s milk vs. cow’s milk: what are the differences and benefits? Farmdrop, 04/2018

  • Review: Milking routines and cluster detachment levels in small ruminants Dzidic, Rovai, Poulet, Leclerc, Marnet – Cambridge University Press, 07/2019




Date: 28 October 2021

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