Animal Reproduction (AR)
Animal Reproduction (AR)
Original Article

Echotextural characteristics of the mammary gland during early lactation in two breeds of sheep varying in milk yields

Maciej Murawski; Tomasz Schwarz; Mark Jamieson; Bahareh Ahmad; Pawel Mieczyslaw Bartlewski

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Abstract: The main goal of this preliminary study was to determine and compare ultrasonographic characteristics of the mammary gland in two genotypes of ewes varying in milk productivity at 2, 3 and 4 weeks after lambing. Ultrasonographic images of the udder were obtained using the 5.0- and 7.5-MHz transducers, in axial and coronal planes, in four low milk-yielding Polish Mountain sheep and six high milk-yielding Olkuska ewes. All ultrasonograms were subjected to computerized image analyses using commercially available image analytical software (Image ProPlus®; Media Cybernetics Inc., San Diego, CA, USA) to determine numerical pixel values (NPVs) and heterogeneity (pixel standard deviation-PSD) of the mammary gland parenchyma. During the 28-day period post-partum, the Olkuska sheep exceeded (P < 0.05) Polish Mountain ewes in milk productivity (31.6 ± 2.7 l and 25.0 ± 4.2 l, respectively; means ± SEMs) as estimated by the mean weight gains of suckling lambs. In animals examined with the 5.0-MHz transducer, mean NPVs of the mammary gland parenchyma in Olkuska ewes and mean PSD in both genotypes of ewes were lower (P < 0.05) before than after milking. In addition, PSD recorded both before and after milking were lower (P < 0.05) in the Polish Mountain compared with Olkuska breed. Mean PSD values for the mammary gland were less (P < 0.05) before than after milking in Polish Mountain ewes and they were greater (P < 0.05) in Olkuska compared with Polish Mountain ewes examined with the 7.5-MHz probe after milking. It can be concluded that milk quantity, histomorphology of the udder and ultrasound transducer frequency may all impinge on the echotextural characteristics of the mammary parenchyma in different breeds of sheep. Our observations warrant future studies of correlations between milk composition, mammary gland histophysiology and ultrasonographic image attributes of the mammary gland in ruminants.


sheep, milk, lactation, mammary gland, ultrasonography


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