Evaluation of udder cisterns and effects on milk yield of dairy ewes

M. Rovai, G. Caja*, X. Such

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Nine Manchega (0.94 L/d) and 10 Lacaune (2.07 L/d) ewes at the same stage of lactation (90 d in milk) were used to study the interbreed differences in milk yield, mammary morphological traits, and machine-milking ability. Udder traits were measured after 6 h of udder filling before the start of the experiment. Cisternal area (by ultrasonography), cisternal milk (by teat cannula drainage), and alveolar milk (by machine milking after an intravenous oxytocin injection) were randomly measured 8 h after milking for 2 wk consecutively either with an intravenous injection of an oxytocin receptor blocking agent (atosiban, AT) or without (control, C) to avoid the occurrence of milk letdown before milking. Lacaune ewes had greater udder depth (22.5 ± 0.9 vs. 19.6 ± 0.9 cm) and cistern height (27.1 ± 3.8 vs. 15.6 ± 3.5 mm), whereas Manchega ewes had longer (42.7 ± 1.5 vs. 32.7 ± 1.5 mm) and wider teats (17.4 ± 0.5 vs. 13.9 ± 0.5 mm). Values per half udder for Manchega and Lacaune ewes differed in cisternal area (12.8 ± 0.7 and 23.7 ± 0.6 cm2) and cisternal milk (120 ± 0.6 and 269 ± 0.5 mL), but not in alveolar milk (95 ± 0.5 and 102 ± 0.4 mL), respectively. Cisternal area and cisternal milk were positively correlated (r = 0.79). Ratios between cisternal and alveolar milk were 56:44 and 73:27 for Manchega and Lacaune ewes, respectively. Cisternal milk volumes obtained with the AT or C treatment were similar in Manchega (111 ± 10 vs. 122 ± 8 mL) but differed in Lacaune ewes (239 ± 8 vs. 299 ± 8 mL), respectively. Consequently, alveolar milk with AT vs. C was similar in Manchega (104 ± 8 vs. 86 ± 7 mL) but different in Lacaune ewes (115 ± 7 vs. 89 ± 7 mL). Results of this experiment confirm the need for the use of an oxytocin-blocking agent for accurate evaluation of milk contained in the udder of dairy ewes. Moreover, despite the differences in daily milk yield, alveolar milk did not vary between breeds, emphasizing the role of the cisternal more than the alveolar compartment for maximizing daily milk secretion in dairy sheep. © American Dairy Science Association, 2008.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4622-4629
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • Cisternal milk
  • Dairy sheep
  • Milking ability
  • Oxytocin


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