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J Dairy Sci. 2008 Sep;91(9):3372-84. doi: 10.3168/jds.2008-1039.

Evaluation of milk enzymes and electrolytes, plasma metabolites, and oxidative status in twin cows milked in an automatic milking system or twice daily in a conventional milking parlor.

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Consiglio per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione in Agricoltura, Centro di Ricerca per le Produzioni Foraggere e Lattiero-Casearie, Sede distaccata per l'allevamento della vacca da latte, 26100 Cremona, Italy.


The aim of this paper was to evaluate the effects of automatic milking (AM) on milk enzymes and minerals related to mammary epithelial integrity in comparison with twice-daily conventional milking (CM). One cow from each of 6 pairs of twins was assigned to be milked with AM or with CM throughout first lactation. Milk production was recorded and milk samples were collected at 4, 11, 18, 25, 32, and 39 wk of lactation (WOL) to determine fat and protein content, somatic cell count, pH, plasminogen (pl) and plasmin (Pl) activities, Na, K, and Cl. Body condition score was monitored; blood samples were collected to determine energy-related metabolites in the first third of lactation (14 WOL), and plasma oxidative status throughout lactation. Overall mean and standard deviation of milking frequency (MF) in AM were 2.69 and 0.88, respectively. Milk production, fat and protein contents, and somatic cell count did not differ between milking systems. The pl and pl+Pl activities were lesser in AM than in CM. Milk pH was greater in AM than in CM. Milk Na, K, Na/K ratio, and Cl did not differ across the whole lactation. Milk pH had a positive correlation with milk Pl activity (r = 0.41), Na (r = 0.37), and Cl (r = 0.40) concentration, and negative correlation with the log(10) of pl/Pl ratio (r = -0.47). The milk Na/K ratio had a positive correlation (r = 0.55) with milk Pl activity. Milking system (MS) did not seem to affect mammary epithelial permeability. The differences in enzymatic (proteolytic) activity due to the MS, probably related to daily MF, lead one to suppose that the quality of the protein fraction for the cheese-making process was preserved better with AM than with CM, even if differences in pH might negatively interfere. No difference was detected in BCS, and in plasma concentration of triglycerides and nonesterified fatty acids, whereas plasma cholesterol concentration during the first 10 WOL was lesser in AM than CM. Oxidative status, measured by plasma reactive oxygen metabolites and thiol groups, did not differ between MS throughout the whole lactation. These results suggest that early lactation of AM primiparous cows may give rise to crucial situations: for milk production, when a low MF may impair further mammary cell proliferation; for milk quality, if an irregular MF, with prolonged milking intervals, leads to an increased milk pH with increased conversion of pl to Pl.

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