How this guide is organized

I Normal lactation and flock health
II Mastitis - what causes it and how it is detected
III Milking management
IV Proper maintainance of milking equipment
V Milk quality
VI Treatment and control of mastitis
VII Monitoring udder health and goal setting
A1 Word or phrase definitions
A2 Self-assessment quizzes
A3 References and additional reading


  • Introduction
  • Section I
  • Section II
  • Section III
  • Section IV
  • Section V
  • Section VI
  • Section VII
What is the Purpose of this Guide?

Dairy sheep producers want to produce the highest quality product – specifically, milk – for its consumers.  Part of the process of achieving this goal is to maintain the health of the animals that produce that milk, and in particular the health of the udder. 

This guide is designed to help educate producers, veterinarians, and extension and dairy support personnel on how to best do that.  The information in this guide has come from a number of sources but includes extension information from both the small ruminant and cow sectors, and new information from the latest research from around the world.   

The self-assessment quiz is designed to help you determine if you understand the information and to remind you of the important points.  To get the most out of this guide, we recommend that you complete all of the sections and assess your understanding as you go along.

What is Meant by the Term "Quality Milk"?

Quality milk is defined by its characteristics:

  • The level of bacteria in the milk;
  • The number of somatic cells (which are a measure of inflammation or mastitis);
  • The freezing point as affected by water contamination;
  • Presence of residues of veterinary drugs and other chemicals or toxin; and
  • By its colour, flavour and odour

Most processors have standards and some provinces have legislation governing what is acceptable quality  for sheep milk.  None of the components of this guide are part of a regulatory process but its contents will help you to understand how to produce better quality milk, with particular reference to the health of the udder.  Please understand that regulations and guidelines can be regionally different and it is your responsibility to know what the regulatory levels are for your region and markets.

What is Meant by the Term "Mastitis"?

The term “udder health” refers to those measures, which keep the udder healthy so that it can produce high quality milk.  But of course, the udder is attached to the ewe and the ewe lives with other sheep – so really “udder health” refers to those practices designed to keep the flock healthy so that the ewes can produce healthy milk. 

Mastitis is the number one reason for poor udder health and will be a major focus of this course, but overall ewe health also influences the ability for it to produce quality milk.  Udder health is an integral component of producing quality milk – in terms of the level of somatic cells (a measure of mastitis), some aspects of bacterial counts, and of course residues of drugs in the milk.   So in summary, this course will emphasize milk quality within the context of udder health.

This project was generously funded by the Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) Program – University of Guelph / Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Program and the Ontario Dairy Sheep Symposium Group
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Normal Lactation and Flock Health

  I.1 Normal lactation
  I.2 Flock health management of the dairy ewe

Proper Maintenance and Use of Milking Equipment

  IV.1 Parlours
  IV.2 The basics of cleaning milking equipment
  IV.3 Set-up and inspection of milking equipment