By Janette Busch
Researchers from the Agriculture and Life Sciences Division at Lincoln University, lead by Dr Graham Barrell, carried out a trial of machine milking deer twice-daily last summer.
Once hinds got into the pattern of regular milking they produced about 700 ml per day, but this increased to about 900 ml per day by the end of the three weeks.
This work is part of a series of studies on the biology of lactating deer.
In order to measure the milking potential of red deer, calves were taken off twenty red deer hinds in January and then the hinds were milked twice-daily by machine every day for the next three weeks.
The hinds were milked, one at a time, in a side-loading crush, using a commercial machine designed for milking sheep or goats. Immediately prior to milking, each hind received an injection of oxytocin to enable the ‘let down’ of milk from the udder.
Dr Barrell said that although deer have four teats, the hindmost pair of teats produce most of the milk, so cups were put on these two teats only and were left on until the flow of milk ceased.
“This took two to five minutes and the whole process of mustering the 20 animals into the deer shed, milking all 20, returning them to pasture and cleaning the shed and milking equipment took two people about 90 minutes,” he said.
Ten of the hinds were given a hormonal milk production stimulant and these had an average daily output of 1200 ml per day.