The global production of sheep's milk is growing and its destination is, in the vast majority of cases, to become cheese. However, the yield of milk to become this product is low, so science is looking to increase its processing capacity, that is, obtain the cheese using less milk.
Immersed in this task, a team from the Department of Animal Production of the University of Córdoba led by Professor Ana Garzón has collaborated with the University of León in the search for genetic parameters that determine the production of cheese from Churra sheep's milk, a one of the oldest and most rustic breeds of the Iberian Peninsula.
After analyzing traits related to the properties of rennet and milk (pH, milk yield, fat or protein content) in a sample of more than a thousand sheep, the research team found a heritability of these characteristics between low and moderate, which suggests that their improvement can be achieved through genetic selection. In addition, the need to consider the pH of the milk at the beginning of the coagulation process was determined as a trait to be taken into account as a selection index for the improvement of the quality of Churra, since it would improve the 'cheese capacity' of the milk of this breed.
The team formed by Ana Garzón together with the researchers Antonio Figueroa and Javier Caballero-Villalobos, embody the Milk Laboratory, where the milk samples from this work have been analyzed, measuring their pH, physical-chemical parameters of the milk such as proteins, fats, lactose and technological parameters such as coagulation time or curd hardening speed; with the aim of contributing information to the selection of values to be included in the genetic selection scheme of the Churra breed to obtain sheep that give a milk with a higher yield when making cheeses.
In the Dairy Laboratory they are specialized in the study of the Manchega breed, which is the most important sheep breed in terms of quality of the product obtained and economic weight in the sector. In this sense, the search for a faster, cheaper and more efficient method that allows the quality of milk to be measured according to its composition is one of its main lines of research. They seek to know if enough information can be obtained through chromaticity so that the livestock sector can evaluate milk quickly and cheaply.
They also try to solve the problem of the water retention of the curd, which makes the milk yield less efficient since it makes the cheese very depleted, requiring a lot of milk to get a cheese. In their latest work they develop mathematical models to achieve a more efficient milk in cheese making. Finally, they analyze the correlation between the health of the sheep's udder and these coagulation parameters of milk destined for cheese.
However, his work directly transfers the science carried out in the Laboratory to the livestock sector, which obtains improvements in the quality and performance of its dairy farms.
Pelayo R et al. Estimation of genetic parameters for cheese-making traits in Spanish Churra sheep. Journal of Dairy Science, Vol. 104 (3) pp. 3250-3260, 2021, https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-19387
Figueroa A. et al. Using multivariate analysis to explore the relationships between color, composition, hygienic quality and coagulation of milk from Manchega sheep. Journal of Dairy Science, 2020, Vol. 103 (06) pp. 4951-4957, https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-17201
This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.