After an overview of current small ruminant milk production and its main traits, let’s discover what our experts advise, to make their sheep and goat milking process as efficient as possible.
In the previous episode we shed light on sheep and goats, in terms of both the nutritional properties of their milk, and the main physical differences that distinguish them from cows, in turn affecting the milking process. To ensure the latter is run properly, with optimized performance whilst respecting animals, here is what our experts Marcel Fernandez, Abdelrahman El Ashkar, and Javier Gayo have to say.
How bad milking habits affect its outcome
One of the major and more frequent risks that small ruminants are exposed too is overmilking, potentially leading to teat thickness and mastitis. In particular, overmilking seems to have a worse effect on goats, due to the longer machine milking duration and increased frequency of unbalanced udder emptying, exposing the teat to more vacuum load and liner compression.
Small ruminants’ teat health is further threatened by incorrect liner usage. As our experts advise, liners should be replaced after 5000 milkings. If not, sheep and goats might develop an increase in teat wall, teat canal, and teat end thickness. Another mistake to be avoided is using twisted liners, which especially damage the teat wall and teat canal in goats. The ultimate result of this bad practice is an unsatisfying milking performance, with reduced yield and efficiency.
Uncomfortable milking equipment and poor milking routines are two further aspects our experts recommend should not be underestimated. In fact, if settings and practice are not suited to the animal, it might become restless, increasing stripping fraction and causing liner slippage and fall-offs or teat-end damages, in turn affecting the outcome of the milking process.
Best practice for best milking performance
With the help of our experts, we outlined some advice and help to ensure your milking routine is run correctly.
A primary step to optimize the milk yield is adapting machine parameters to the specific needs of each animal. Table 2 below illustrates the settings to be used according to our experts’ advice, respecting the animal’s health. Any increase in the parameters might negatively affect both its wellbeing and the outcome of the milking process. Vacuum levels above those recommended, for instance, are often used to facilitate the opening of the teat sphincter. Nevertheless, this also implies severe machine-induced teat tissue damage.
In the previous paragraph we underlined the potentially negative consequences of overmilking. To prevent animals from being exposed to this risk, a very useful technology to be considered is automatic cluster removal. While simplifying and automatizing the end of milking, it increases sheep and goats’ farm efficiency and provides a consistent milking routine.
Abdel, Marcel, and Javier also pointed out that the ACR system can be either time- or flow-driven. The first case is the most popular for sheep, whereas the second is especially dedicated to goats.
Flow-based ACR systems require combination with a milk meter to monitor the milk throughput. Milk yield is, in fact, a very easy though essential trait to measure to improve productivity and establish the most efficient milk-feed ratio.
ACR systems and milk meters could be highly beneficial, as they allow you to identify and set the right parameters for each animal, reducing stressful conditions. These advantages could be further increased by combining these technologies with other automatic devices such as electronic identification or sort gates, which allow data gathering through a herd management software. This would be a solid, reliable base to guide farmers in making data-driven decisions.
On one hand, in this episode the support of our experts enabled us to detect some of the most frequent mistakes made by small ruminant farmers, which could potentially threaten milking efficiency and farm profitability. On the other hand, we could provide some feasible recommendations, solutions, and improvements to preserve the health of sheep and goats and optimize their performance.
Don’t miss our next blog post, to gain further useful insights!
milkrite | InterPuls thank Marcel Fernandez, Abdelrahman El Ashkar, and Javier Gayo for their support.
Dzidic, Rovai, Poulet, Leclerc, Marnet – Cambridge University Press, 07/2019
Date: 10 November 2021