Cannas, Antonello and Nudda, Anna and Pulina, Giuseppe (2002) Nutritional strategies to improve lactation persistency in dairy ewes. In: 8. Annual Great Lakes dairy sheep symposium: proceedings, November 7-9, 2002, Ithaca (NY), USA. Madison, University of Wisconsin. p. 17-59. Conference or Workshop Item.
Milk production is largely dependent on the shape of the lactation curve. Relevant elements of the lactation pattern are the peak yield, which represents the maximum milk yield during the lactation, and the lactation persistency, which expresses the ability of animals to maintain a reasonably constant milk yield after the lactation peak. Thus, persistent animals are those that show flatter lactation curves. Several measurements of persistency have been proposed (Broster and Broster, 1984; Gengler, 1996): the rate of fall of milk yield per week or per month; combinations of parameters of mathematical functions used to model the lactation curve; the variation of test day yields throughout the whole lactation or part of it; the proportion of total milk yield achieved in a certain period (e.g. second half of lactation). However, none of the above mentioned measurements seems to be able to become the reference method (Grossman et al., 1999). For example, the definition of persistency as the rate of fall of milk yield per unit of time can be misleading if the absolute level of production is not considered. Usually curves with high peak yield show low persistency because the rate of milk yield declines faster in animals that have a fast milk yield increase after calving. Thus in this review, we will consider persistency in a broad sense, and we will analyze the nutritional and nonnutritional factors that affect and limit milk production in mid-late lactation in sheep.
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