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Milk production and composition in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus): effect of lactational stage.

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  • 1Department of Animal Science, Agricultural University of Norway, P.O. Box 5025, N-1432 As, Norway.


Milk yield and composition of major milk constituents were measured in captive, nursing reindeer. Registration of milk production was performed during two successive lactations (2001 and 2002). The milk yield was significantly affected by week of lactation (P<0.001) and by individual (P<0.001). The lactation curve had an asymmetrical peak 3 weeks postpartum and the milk yield at peak lactation was 983 g/day (range 595-1239). The length of lactation varied from 24 to 26 weeks and average total milk production was 99.5 kg. From peak lactation the milk production decreased linearly (P<0.001) until milk production was terminated. Mean values for content of major milk constituents were 15.5% fat, 9.9% protein and 2.5% lactose. The content of fat and protein increased markedly with the lactation stage (P<0.001), while lactose showed a slight decrease (P<0.001). The milk composition was significantly affected by stage of lactation (P<0.001). There was a marginally significant decrease in protein:fat ratio (P=0.06) as protein was substituted by fat with stage of lactation. The caloric value of the milk averaged 8.7 kJ/g and increased significantly with the stage of lactation (P<0.001). The overall increase in milk gross energy content during lactation was 67.6%. The energy output averaged 7996 kJ/day at peak lactation and decreased significantly during the course of lactation (P=0.002).

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