Federal Station Agroscope Liebefeld-Posieux ALP, CH-3003 Bern

Sheep milk is a high-value food

The aims of the investigation were to develop a better way of describing the composition and quality of sheep milk (milk as received from suppliers), and to identify possible differences between the milks obtained from the two sheep breeds most commonly used in Switzerland (Lacaunes and Ostfriesian milk sheep) and from cross-breeds of these two. The bacteria concentrations in the samples of milk from the suppliers were generally very low. However, very high values were found in a few cases. Butyric acid spores were found to be present in all the milk samples, and in many cases the concentrations were high enough to cause potential problems in cheese ripening. Bacteria pathogenic to humans were not found in any of the samples. The milk from Lacaunes differs significantly from the milk yielded by the Ostfriesian and cross-breed sheep with regard to fat content, but not with regard to protein and lactose contents. The milk from Ostfriesian milk sheep gives a significantly lower cell count than that from Lacaunes and cross-breeds. A possible reason for this is that the Ostfriesian milk sheep have had a greater degree of selective breeding for low cell count. The freezing point of sheep milk was found to be, on average, significantly lower than that of cows’ milk.

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