Factors Affecting Milk Yeld
by Dr Apostolos Marantidis
The milk yield as far as the quality of milk is related to a large number of factors.
Some of them are manageable and they can be influenced by various management procedures, when others cannot be configured because they are associated with the genetic material of the animals (ie. race).
The most important factors are mentioned below:
- The animal breed/race (Not manageable)
- Some breeds naturally produce more or less milk than others, with high variations in the concentration of fat, proteins etc.
- For example, the local, not improved breeds produce less milk than genetically improved races, such as Lacaune sheep. However, Lacaune sheep usually present lower fat content in the milk.
- The sex of the embryo and its weight at birth (Not manageable)
- The size of the fetus at birth as well as the sex (male or female embryo) affects the level of their mother’s milk yield.
- Usually male embryos have slightly larger size than the females. Thus, the mothers of male embryos often present a slightly higher milk yield compared to the others.
- The number of embryos (litter size) (Not manageable)
- Within the same breed, females with increased litter size usually produce more milk compared to the females with only one embryo.
- Therefore, we might conclude that breeds with high litter sizes usually produce more milk than the others.
- The lactic period (Not manageable)
- Usually females who are in their first lactation (first lactic period) give less milk than the others.
- In addition, during the same lactic period it is good to know that the milk yield increases day by day until it reaches a maximum. Then, a continuous decline begins in milk production but usually in a slow pace as far as it concerns the improved breeds.
- The body size and the nutritional status of the mothers (Manageable)
- It is very important that females will be maintained in very good nutritional condition during the breeding season and pregnancy period (not skinny or too fat).
- As far as it concerns females which introduced to reproduction for their first time, their body weight should be at least at 75% of the body weight of an adult female of the same breed. For example, when the average body weight of the females of a specific breed is about 65 Kg, the appropriate weight for inserting a female in reproduction should be more than 50 Kg.
- The number of milkings per day (Manageable)
- When only one milking per day occurs, the female cannot perform to its full potential. The usual practice is to be milked twice a day, morning and evening.
- In some high dairy breeds and for a period of some months, it is advisable to perform three milkings per day (usually from the 2nd until the 4th month of the lactic period) and this depends mainly on the level of milk yield.
- The nutrition (Manageable)
- The quality of food, the amount of food and the frequency of feeding are also essential in order to increase the milk production as far as to maintain or improve the quality of milk and the fat content in milk.
- The environment (Manageable)
- Excessive heat, cold, humidity and cold air waves are factors that directly reduce the amount of milk in a herd.
- The animal’s health (Manageable)
- All diseases can cause reduction in the milk yield in proportion to their seriousness. However, some diseases are closely linked to the decrease in milk yield (ie agalactia, paratuberculosis, parasites, etc.)
- An annual program of vaccinations and a clean/proper living environment would easily eliminate these problems.
- The way of milking (Manageable)
- We have the choice between milking by hand and mechanical milking.
- The mechanical milking can increase the amount of milk yield and improve the quality of the milk, as a result of the influence of various factors on the female.
- However, it is very important that the machine must be properly configured for the type of animals intended (sheep, goats, cows) and should always work properly.
Dr Apostolos Marantidis, MSc, PhD
Animal Production Specialist