Effects of weather and other factors on milk production in the Churra dairy sheep breed
The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of meteorological and other factors on the quality and quantity of milk of the Spanish Churra sheep breed, based on an analysis of 359,808 milk controls from 9,904 ewes on 15 farms in 8 years. Daily milk yield (DMY), fat, protein, and lactose (%), and somatic cell count (SCC) data were obtained from monthly alternating milk controls. Mean, maximum, and minimum temperatures (T) (°C), mean relative humidity (RH) (%), wind speed (WS, m/s), mean solar radiation (SR, MJ/m2), and total rainfall (RF, mm) on the day before each milk control day were documented. Year, farm, number of lambing and stage of lactation, and all of the meteorological factors had a significant (P < 0.0001) effect on DMY and milk quality. DMY and SCC differed among seasons (P < 0.001), and maximum DMY and minimum SCC occurred in spring, and minimum DMY and maximum SCC occurred in autumn. Fat, protein, and lactose content differed significantly (P < 0.001) among seasons, and fat and protein contents were highest in autumn. DMY was highest in the second lambing of the ewe and steadily declined in subsequent lambings. SCC increased significantly from the first to the 10th lambing of the ewe. DMY, SCC, and fat content differed significantly (P < 0.001) among years. In conclusion, meteorological conditions had a significant effect on milk quality and production in Churra sheep conditions in a season-dependent manner such that factors such as temperature had the opposite effect on milk production in hot and cold seasons.
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