How Milk is Made

The udder of the cow and buffalo has four quarters, each quarter having a teat. In the sheep and goat the udder is divided into two with two teats.

Milk is produced in the udder from nutrients in the blood which flows through the vessels (tubes) in each quarter. The greater the amount of blood passing through the udder the greater the amount of milk which is produced. The milk is released as the teat is sucked or squeezed.

Milking by hand will take from 5 to 10 minutes. The udder should be emptied at each milking and this will stimulate the udder to develop more milk. Always milk the animal quietly. A good time to milk is in the morning before the animal goes out to graze and in the evening. Always milk at the same time each day.

Differences in milk yields

Milk yields will vary for different reasons:

  • Some types or breeds of animals produce more milk than others.
  • Milk production will be greater after the birth of the second or third young.
  •  Extra good feed, minerals and a lot of water are needed by the animal in milk in order to produce milk.
  • Milk production improves when the animal gives birth in the rainy season when there is a lot of feed available.
  • Talking, singing or whistling to the sheep, cow, goat or buffalo as it is being milked makes it relax and the milk is let down better.

Infection of the Udder (Mastitis)

A good udder is essential for milk production. If the udder is injured or infected milk production can stop. Infection of the udder is called mastitis and is caused by germs. Mastitis can be recognised by:

  • The milk is not clean, the colour is different and there may be lumps in the    milk
  • The udder is hot, painful and swollen.
  • The skin of the teats is cracked.
  • The animal may stop eating.

More than one quarter of the udder may be infected. The mastitis may be caused by a germ which is infectious and spreads to other animals. Goat milk must be closely looked at for signs of mastitis because the milk may not show a noticeable change in colour.

To treat mastitis the udder should be bathed with warm water. The bad milk in the udder should then be removed using a clean teat catheter or by hand milking. This is carried out at least twice a day until the udder returns to normal.

A treatment which is now preferred is to bathe the affected quarter with cold water and then milk out the quarter. The udder is then dried and massaged. This is repeated morning and night until the udder returns to normal. If the infection is severe this treatment is repeated every 2 to 3 hours.