Long- and short-term effects of omitting two weekend milkings on the lactational performance and mammary tight junction permeability of dairy ewes

V. Castillo, X. Such, G. Caja*, R. Casals, A. A.K. Salama, E. Albanell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The long- and the short-term effects of omitting 2 milkings weekly in early (wk 8 to 14) and mid lactation (wk 15 to 22) were investigated in an experiment conducted with a total of 58 dairy ewes (40 Manchega and 18 Lacaune). Ewes submitted to 2 milking omissions were milked twice daily from Monday to Friday (0800 and 1800 h), and once daily on Saturday and Sunday (1600 and 1400 h, respectively). Individual data were collected for milk yield (weekly), milk composition (biweekly), and somatic cell count (SCC; monthly). Omitting 2 milkings per week in early lactation tended to decrease milk yield in Manchega ewes (-15%), whereas no effects were observed in Lacaune ewes. Averaged milk composition was not modified by milking omissions in either breed. Milking omissions in late lactation did not affect milk yield and milk composition in either breed. The SCC were unaffected by milking omissions in both breeds and in both stages of lactation. A sample of 22 Manchega and 11 Lacaune ewes were used to evaluate the short-term (daily) effects of the 2 milking omissions per week on milk yield and composition, udder health, and tight junction permeability, both in early lactation (wk 12) and in mid lactation (wk 20). Milking omission decreased milk yield, milk fat, and milk lactose contents on the first omission day in both breeds, with losses being more noticeable in early lactation than in mid lactation. Milk protein content and SCC did not vary by effect of the weekend milking omissions. After restoring the twice-daily milking routine on Monday, milk yield showed a compensatory increase that was greater in the large-cisterned than in the small-cisterned ewes, which allowed milk yield to return to Friday values in both breeds. Milk fat content increased during Sunday and Monday, reestablishing Friday values thereafter in both breeds. Weekend milking omissions in early lactation caused tight junction leakiness in both breeds, but mammary epithelia adapted to extended milking intervals when applied successively, recovering their tight state after milking. In mid lactation, the mammary tight junction showed leakiness only in Man-chega ewes. In conclusion, 2 milkings per week could be omitted with no negative effects on milk yield, milk composition, and milk SCC values in large-cisterned dairy ewes, as observed in Lacaune and large-cisterned Manchega ewes. Losses in milk yield could be reduced if milking omissions were done from mid lactation in small-cisterned ewes. © american Dairy Science association, 2009.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3684-3695
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009


  • Dairy sheep
  • Mammary tight junction
  • Milking frequency
  • Milking omission


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