Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 November 1998
The principles of today's machine milking techniques have developed since the early 1900s. The original intention to imitate the sucking action of the calf had to be abandoned owing to technical difficulties. Further developments were made on a largely empirical basis and milking technique became a specific complex of tasks, problems and solutions. Consequently, the sucking of the calf was rejected as a model for machine milking. The sucking behaviour and the application of vacuum and/or pressure by the sucking mammalian offspring have been adapted through evolution. Any eventual changes due to ‘recent’ breeding and development of the milking machine remain marginal compared with evolutionary changes.
Since the cineradiographic techniques used by Ardran et al. (1957, 1958) it was believed that sucking calves use mainly pressure to transfer a squirt of milk from the proximally closed teat cistern and through the teat canal. The calf creates the pressure by compressing the teat between the tongue and the hard palate from the base of the teat towards the teat end. Cowie (1977) summarized these results as follows: ‘Sucking, that is the production of vacuum within the mouth cavity, is not an essential feature in suckling, although it aids the process. … The act of suckling is thus analogous to hand milking …’. These conclusions were based on visually analysed recordings. McDonald & Witzel (1966) measured pressure in teat cisterns and vacuum at the teat end simultaneously during suckling. Average maximum pressure in the teat cistern was 36·6 kPa and vacuum at the end of the teat averaged −34·6 kPa. These authors concluded that the average differential pressure across the teat canal was 71 kPa. However, this method of calculation gives only the maximal pressure difference and not the average pressure applied by the calf. They noted that vacuum in the teat cistern occurred during the resting phase of a suckling cycle. The calf's sucking technique for single teats during a meal has been analysed (Mayntz, 1996). Further details of pressure and/or vacuum application during suckling at a specific teat remain unknown.
The objective of the present study was to extend the current knowledge about milk extraction by sucking calves through continuous and simultaneous measurements of positive and negative pressure in the teat cistern and in the mouth cavity.
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