Primary production of milk

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Primary production of milk

Milk production began 6000 years ago or even earlier. The dairy animals of today have been developed from untamed animals which, through thousands of years, lived at different altitudes and latitudes exposed to natural and, many times, severe and extreme conditions.

Practically everywhere on earth man started domesticating animals. As a rule herbivorous, multipurpose animals were chosen to satisfy his need of milk, meat, clothing, etc.

Herbivorous animals were chosen because they are less dangerous and easier to handle than carnivorous animals. The former did not compete directly with man for nourishment, since they ate plants which man could not use himself.

The herbivorous animals used were all ruminants with the exception of the mare and ass. Ruminants can eat quickly and in great quantities, and later ruminate the feed. Today, the same animals are still kept for milk production, milk being one of the essential food components for man.

The most widespread milking animal in the world is the cow, which is found on all continents and in nearly all countries.

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However, we should not forget the other milking animals whose milk is of great importance to the local population as a source of highly valuable animal protein and other constituents. Sheep are of exceptional importance among this group, especially in the Mediterranean countries and in large areas of Africa and Asia. The number of sheep in the world exceeds one billion, and they are thus the most numerous of all milk and meat producing domestic animals.

Sheep are often accompanied by goats, whose contribution to milk and meat production in the poorest areas should not be overlooked. Both sheep and goats are a source of cheap, high-quality protein and are mainly kept in conditions where climatic, topographical, economic, technical or sociological factors limit the development of more sophisticated protein production systems.

Table 1.1 shows the composition of milk from different species of animals. The figures given, however, are only averages, as the composition for any species is influenced by a number of factors such as breed, feeding, climate, etc.