Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (6) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Milk yield of Ogaden cattle at Haramaya University, Eastern Ethiopia

Y M Yesihak

P.O. Box 135,
Haramaya University, Ethiopia


Daily milk yield of Ogaden cattle breed was estimated under partial suckling system conducted once in a week during morning after separating the cows from the calves from 5 pm to 7 am. The study was conducted from May to October 2006 at Haramaya University, Ethiopia. Milking was done by standing the calves in the near sight of the dam. Calves were allowed to suckle their dam after milking. The average PDMY (predicted daily milk yield) of the breed was 1.99 + 0.07 kg per day. The yield was significantly affected by parities of cow (p<0.001). Cows that were in the second and third parities produced more milk than those in the first, fourth and above parities. Milk yield was almost similar across the first 16 weeks of lactation then after decreased to the 6th months of drying period. Lactation curve developed from mean PDMY was curvilinear with linear rate of decrease of -0.029 kg/week (-0.4%/day). The average fat and protein percent of morning milk was 2.15 + 1.09 and 2.99 + 0.60, respectively. Productivity of the breed estimated on natural pasture indicated that the breed perform similar to the zebu breeds in tropical environment. However, further studies are needed to investigate the potential of the breed under optimal feeding condition and on cows well adapted to hand milking.

Keywords: Composition of milk; hand milking; partial suckling system; predicted daily milk yield


Ogaden cattle are one of the breeds in Ethiopia which was described as a strain of Boran breeds (Rege and Tawah 1999). The breed is dominant in South Eastern arid region of Ethiopia where it is used for milk and meat purpose by pastoral society.


Ethiopian cattle like other cattle in the tropics are inherently slow maturing and low milk producers. In addition, they performed in levels of nutrition and management which are generally low. This indicates the possibilities of increasing productivities through improvement of the environmental conditions and the genetic capabilities of the breeds.


Milking system is one of the factors which affect yield and composition of milk. Previous studies indicated that zebu cows produce more milk under partial suckling system than milking conducted in the absences of calves (Yilma et al 2006). Whether the suckling is done before or after or before and after milking it was found to affect both yield and composition. Restricted suckling before milking was reported to stimulate “let-down” saleable yield and fat content (Tesorero et al 2001). Allowing calves to suckle after milking depress fat content extracted in the next milking (Froberg et al 2007).


However, none of the earlier studies reported the productivity and composition of milk of Ogaden cows. Therefore, this study was conducted with the objectives to estimate the yield and composition of milk of Ogaden cattle on pasture management and to suggest possible improvement options in the future.


Materials and Methods

 Study area

The study was conducted at Haramaya University located at 09.00N and 42.00 E at an altitude of 1950 meters above sea level. The area receives a bimodal rain fall, long rainy season (July to September) and short rainy season (March to June). The average rainfall is about 790 mm. The mean maximum and minimum temperature are 23.60C and 10.10C, respectively.

Management of study animal

Pure Ogaden cattle breed at Haramaya University Beef Farm was used from June to November 2006 for this study. Animals on the farm grazed natural pasture for about eight hours per day and had free access for water. The dominant pasture type in the area consists of Hyparrhenia species, Cynodon dactylon, Sporobolus aficanus and pennisetum species.


Natural controlled mating was practice on the farm. Bulls were allowed to run with cows during breeding season which was usually 75-90 days. One breeding bull was used for 20 to 25 breeding cows. Selections of breeding bulls were made based on performance on birth, weaning and yearling weight. Cows were selected based on teats and health condition. Heifers were allowed to mate at 200-250 kg body weight.


During the experimental period, a total of 314 fresh milk samples (from 15 cows) were collected from morning milk once in a week by method of hand milking. Cows had no experience for hand milking. Calves had free access to suckle their dams to the age of six months except a night once in a week (5 pm - 7 pm) prior to the next morning hand milking was conducted. During this morning, calves were made to stand in the near sight of cows which were milked. After the milking was over, calves were allowed to suckle residual milk left within the udder. Full hand grip technique of hand milking was practiced. Dams were supplemented with grass hay during milking. Am milk yield was converted to a 24 h basis ([Milk weight/14 h] x 24 h; Brown et al 1996) to get predicted daily milk yield (PDMY).

Laboratory analysis of milk composition

During the experimental period, a total of 127 fresh milk samples were collected every other week from morning milk of experimental cows. Morning milk samples were kept in a refrigerator below 40C before undertaking the required test for chemical composition. Milk fat analysis was run using the Gerber method (BSI 1989). Protein content was determined using the formaldehyde titration method according to the technique described by Pyne (1932).

Statistical Analysis

Data collected on milk yield and composition were subjected to statistical analysis using MIXED Linear Model with repeated measures procedures in Minitab (1998). Fixed effects of calving season, parity of dam and stage of lactation were considered on milk yield. Calving season was classified as wet (May – September) and dry (October – November) season. Cows in 2nd and 4rd parities were merged with cows in 3rd and above 4 parities, respectively, because of small number of observation. Moreover, weeks of lactation were classified into first stage of lactation (week 1-4), 2nd stage of lactation ( 5-8 week), third stage of lactation (9-16 week) and fourth stage of lactation (weeks > 16). Lactation curve were developed from the PDMY of sample days.


The statistical model used was:

Yijk = µ +  Si +   Pj    +   Lk   +  eijk


Where, Yijk = Observation of predicted daily milk yield

µ  = Overall mean 

Si  = Fixed effect of calving season (i = dry, wet)

P j = Fixed effect of dam’s parity (j = 1, 2-3, and   )

Lk = Fixed effect of stage of lactation (k=1-4 week, 5-8 week, 9-16 week and > 16 week)

eijk = Effects of random error for predicted daily milk yield

Result and Discussion

Predicted daily milk yield

PDMY for Ogaden cattle was 1.99 + 0.07 kg per day (Table 1). The PDMY was higher than the 0.99 kg of milk per day reported for Fogera breed at Andasa Research Center (Addisu et al 2010) and lower than the reports for Barca and Boran breed in Ethiopia, which was 2.98 kg and 2.2 kg, respectively (Million et al 2003; Yilma et al 2006). However, it was similar to the saleable milk yield from zebu dairy cattle in Burkina Faso at the research centre “Institut de l´Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles” which was 2.08 kg per day (Millogo et al 2009).  The condition in which the yield was estimated could underestimate the true potential of the breed because cows on the farm have no experience for hand milking. Cows were not milked either by hand or machine as the farm was established with the aim to evaluate the growth performance of the breed. Besides, they were milked once in a week during experimental period. Furthermore, cows were milked by tying calves in their near sight which might not strong enough to stimulate the let down similar to suckling of calves before milking. The frightening of the cows when exposed to unusual condition might lead to difficulties in milking which in turn lead to incomplete milking. Bruckmaier et al (1996) reported blockage of oxytocin and consequently the production of only 13% of the expected milk yield when cows exposed to unfamiliar surroundings during the first milking. Millogo et al (2009) reported that the presence of the calves during milking was not strong enough let-down more milk similar to suckling of calves before milking. Moreover, Tesorero et al (2001) reported stimulating effect of calves when suckling before milking increasing saleable milk yield. In addition to the reason mentioned above for lower yield of the Ogaden cows, absence of good quality supplemental feed during milking, immediately before and after parturition might negatively influenced the yield. Experimental animals were entirely depended on poor quality pasture dominated by Hyparrhenia species. Cows were provided with grass hay during milking.

Season of calving and parity

Season of calving didn’t affected PDMY in this study. Similarly, Addisu et al (2010) reported non significant effects of season on daily milk yield for Fogera cows at Andassa Livestock Research Centre, North West Ethiopia. This could be due to the supplementation of cows with hay during dry season. Moreover, the dry season during the study period (October) was early dry season where feed was relatively available for animals as compared to the late dry season.


Cows that were in the second and third parity produced more milk than those in the first, fourth and above parities (Table 1). Cows in 2nd and 3rd parities produced 13.4 % more milk than those in the first parities. Similarly, Mackinnon et al (1996) reported a decrease in milk yield after the third parity for crosses of Ayrshire, Brown Swiss and Sahiwal breed in Kenya. However, for Fogera-Friesian crosses at Gonder Breeding Station (Ethiopia), milk yield reach maximum at fourth and fifth parity and declined then after (Goshu and Mekonnen 1997). Lower milk yield from cows in the first parity could be due to immature udder size and requirement of nutrient for both growth and milk production these reducing the yield. The reason for different reports on maximum milk yield produced by cows with different parities could be due to the difference in age of similar parities in different management system. Martinez (1988) reported that age was more important on milk yield than parities of cows.

Table 1. Means PDMY of Ogaden cattle breed (June – November, 2006)



PDMY (kg)                                            




Overall mean












Long rain




















Weeks of lactation




















Means with different letters (a, b) within  a column are different at indicated P value, *** = p<0.001, ns= non significant difference, PDMY  = Am milk yield converted to a 24 hr basis ([Milk weight/14 hr] x 24 hr; Brown et al. 1996).  

Milk yield were almost similar across the first 16 weeks of lactation then after decreased to six month when dry off (Figure 1). Lactation curve of Ogaden cows had showed curvilinear trend with linear rate of decrease of -0.029 kg/week (-0.4% per day). The curve is similar to the lactation curves developed for multiparous Barrosa cows in Portugal (Silvestre et al 2010) and for hand milked cows of Jersey, Sahiwal and Ankole crosses in Burundi (Hatungumukama et al 2009). The absence of peak yield in this study could be due to scarcity of sufficient energy before calving which favoured the development of body reserve and after calving which sustained the yield throughout lactation. There was no practice of supplementing high energy feed before and after calving for the cows on the farm. Moreover, lack of experience of the cows for hand milking together with absence of suckling of calves before milking could prevent the yield from rising to peak there by lowering early lactation.

Figure 1: Lactation curve of Ogaden cattle based on PDMY (June – November, 2006)
Milk composition of Ogaden cattle breed

The average morning fat and protein percent of milk from Ogaden cattle was found to be 2.15 + 1.09 and 2.99 + 0.60, respectively (Table 2). The composition of the milk was lower than that reported for most tropical zebu cattle (Millogo et al 2009).  However, it was in agreement with the composition reported in saleable milk for dual purpose cattle in Mexico which was 2.29% and 2.91%, respectively (Froberg et al 2007). The protein content of milk of breed was similar to the report for Boran cows in Ethiopia which was 3.17% (Yilma et al 2010). Lower protein content compared to most zebu breeds in tropics could be due to low quality feed resource the animal depended on.  The energy intake of the animal affect composition of milk particularly protein content. Moreover, the composition of milk in this study was based on morning milking where calves were allowed to suckle their dams after milking. Lower fat composition during the morning milking in comparison with the evening milking was reported by De Waal et al (2001). Sampling time together with suckling after milking might lowered the fat content of the milk. Allowing calves to suckle after milking depress fat content extracted in the next milking (Froberg et al 2007).

Table 2. Milk compositions of morning milk from Ogaden cattle breed (June – November, 2006)

Milk composition (Am milk)

Number of observation



Fat %




Protein %




Conclusions and Recommendation


This study was financially supported by Haramaya University. The author wishes to express his gratitude to Professor B. P. Hegde and Dr. A. K. Sharma for their strong advisory support.


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Received 3 January 2011; Accepted 1 March 2011; Published 19 June 2011

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