Three experiments were conducted on Martina Franca jennies. Experiment 1 tested Wood's model for evaluating the lactation curve. Data from the entire lactation period of 12 jennies were used. The results showed that Wood's model was able to recognize the shape of the lactation curve from pooled data (r(2) = 0.11; P < 0.01), with the lactation peak occurring at 48 d. Individual curves showed wide variability. Experiment 2 aimed to evaluate the effects of the daily number of milkings (1, 3, or 6) and the interval between the separation of foals from dams and milking (2 or 3 h) on milk yield and udder health. Four groups of jennies (n = 5) were considered: 1 × 3H, milked once per day (1×) with a 3-h interval from the time of foal removal (3H) from the dams to mechanical milking (3-h interval); 3 × 3H, milked 3 times per day with 3-h intervals; 3 × 2H, milked 3 times per day with 2-h intervals; and 6 × 2H, milked 6 times per day with 2-h intervals. The milk somatic cell count (SCC) was monitored. Better efficiency was observed for 3 vs. 1 milking per day and for 3-h vs. 2-h intervals. The regimen of 6 daily milkings at 2-h intervals did not increase milk yield and was related to an increase in the SCC compared with 3 daily milkings. In Exp. 3, the effects of the interval from foal removal to milking (3, 5, or 8 h) on yield, gross chemical composition, organoleptic characteristics of the milk, and udder health of the jennies were evaluated. The effects of milking time were also evaluated. Twenty jennies milked twice daily (2×) were subdivided into 4 groups (n = 5): 2 × 3H, with milkings at 1200 h and 1900 h and an interval of 3 h; 2 × 5H, milked at 1200 h and 1900 h with a 5-h interval; 2 × 8H(1), milked at 1200 h and 2200 h with an 8-h interval; and 2 × 8H(2), milked at 0700 h and 1900 h with an 8-h interval. Milk yield was greater by 28.4% when an 8-h interval was used compared with a 3-h interval and at the morning vs. the evening milking. The milk yield per milking was greatest at 0700 h, indicating the existence of a circadian rhythm in milk secretion processes. Intervals of 5 and 8 h caused significant decreases in the fat and lactose content and organoleptic characteristics of the milk, whereas an 8-h interval led to an increase in the SCC. In conclusion, a milking regimen of twice-daily milking at 0700 h and 1900 h with an 8-h interval provided the maximum yield per day. In terms of milk quality, a 3-h interval yielded the best results.
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