Comparison of milk production ability between Awassi and East-Friesian sheep

in Macedonia
N. Pacinovski, Elena Eftimova, M. Gievski




Comparison between awassi and east-friesian sheep was done for some of their production traits (lactation, fertility, milk content and similar) for the production 2006 year. Greatly bigger total milk production (P<0.05) was discovered of awassi sheep than of east-friesian sheep. Lactation is insignificantly longer (P<0.05) for east-friesian sheep (264 days), compared to awassi (257 days). During milk content examination, greatly bigger percent of milk fat (P<0.01) was found at awassi sheep (6.92%), compared to east-friesian (5.64%). Protein percentage was insignificantly higher (P>0.05) at awassi sheep (4.78%) than east-friesian (4.85%), but protein production was significantly (P<0.05) higher at awassi sheep. East-friesian sheep had greatly bigger (P<0.01) fertility (148%) compared to awassi (121%). Most examined factors influence with high statistic importance (P<0.001) on daily milk production of awassi sheep. Only the number of lambs born from sheep, does not have influence (P>0.05) on the content of protein, for both breeds. Only the month of milk control had significantly influence (P<0.001) on all the examined parameters, for the sheep of east-friesian breed. The influence of the fixed factors on the other parameters for this breed is different and depends on each parameter.


Key words: awassi, east-friesian, milk production, lactation length, fat %, proteins %, fixed factors.




In the recent sheep breeding development in the R. Macedonia, many sheep breeds have been imported from different production types. The import was done in order to improve some particular production trait (wool, meat, milk) of the domestic populations of sheep (ovchepolian and sharplanian strains of pramenka breed). So, to improve the wool production, several merino breeds were used (merino d’arl, merino rambue, merino de lest, zlatoushki merino and other), while for improvement of growth rate and lamb meat quality, the breed virtemberg (german domestic merino or merinolandschaft) was used. Awassi and east-friesian breeds were imported in order to increase the dairy production of the domestic sheep. In this study some production traits of this two breeds are compared for the production 2006 year.


Material and methods


As research materials two flocks were used, flock of awassi sheep, ownership of Awassi Mediterranean farm (AMF) from Gradiste village, Kumanovo region, and flock of east-friesian sheep, imported from Netherlands, ownership of individual farmer from the village Trubarevo, Skopje region.

The surveys are for the production 2006 year and 56 sheep of awassi breed and 85 of east-friesian breed were examined. Sheep were at different ages in different lactations, and the following things were observed: lactation milk production per sheep, lactation length, chemical content of the milk, (fat and protein %), fertility or number of lambs born per sheep. Lambs were weaned when they were 60 days old. Sheep were milked two times a day (in the morning and in the evening).

The quantity of total milk is confirmed by A4 method (Barillet, 1992) which is measuring the daily milk production in interval from 28th to 34th day, between two controls.

Lactation length is defined as a sum of all days of the partus until the moment when the daily milk per head, decreased up to 100 ml.

Chemical milk content was examined with Milcosan FT 6000 apparatus.

Awassi sheep was feeding with traditional food, which means, their grazing was in the period from middle of March until the end of November, continually adding 18% protein mixtures in quantity of about 0.5 to 1.2 kg per sheep a day, depending on the lactation phase and how much food was for gazing. Winter feeding was with balanced nutrition of roughage feedstuffs (clover, lucerne, sainfoin, sweet pea) and mixtures, temporal grazing according to weather conditions.

East-friesian sheep feeding was not with traditional breading system in R. Macedonia, it was only in stables ( by hand) without grazing during the year. It consisted of roughage feedstuffs (lucerne and meadow hay) and mixtures or crops (barley, dry sugar beet pulps). The feeding was ad libitum.

Sheep of the two flocks were put in well built facilities with satisfactory conditioning and sheep care and health was on a very high level during the whole year.

The influences of the main factors (lactation, test day, number of lambs born and month of control) were analyzed simultaneously for the traits of daily milk production – morning and evening milking, total daily milk yield, fat and protein percentage. The fixed model of SPSS with main effects only was used.


Results and discussion


According to the received results from 2006 year, significantly higher total milk production (P<0.05) was found for awassi sheep (280 l.) compared to east-friesian breed (250 l.), Figure 1. Maximum and minimum defined milk production of the examined sheep populations was between 123 to 415 l for awassi sheep or 77 to 422 for east-friesian sheep.

Analogue to lactation, higher daily milk production was found for awassi sheep 1.09 l with variations from 0.51 to 1.65 l. Also for east-friesian sheep average daily milk production was 0.94 l, with variations from 0.42 to 1.41 l, Figure 2.

Significantly higher milk production of awassi sheep has found Gootwine (1995) according to whom in the most popular flock (Ein Harod) of pureblood awassi sheep in Izrael, lactation milk production is about 500 l., which shows big genetic capacity of this flock. Todorovski et al. (1996) for awassi sheep found higher milk production, from 691% to 948%, compared with domestic strains of pramenka breed (ovchepolian and sarplanian strain).


Figure 1.

Average total milk production, with min and max on awassi and east-friesian sheep



Figure 2.

Average daily milk production, with min and max on awassi and east-friesian sheep



Examining awassi sheep in Turkey, Gursoy et al. (1992), have found large discrepances in milk production which is between 97.5 to 469.2 kg, and because of this authors, emphasize the opportunity of further selection of this breed in Turkey. Average daily milk production of the above mentioned population is between 1.19 to 2.61 kg. This indicates some discrepances in awassi sheep production that were breaded in other regions compared with their native breading area.

In order to improve lactation of Turkish awassi sheep, the same were crossing with east-friesian and hios breed. As a result of this cross breeding the so called chukurova asaf type of sheep (75% awassi + 25% east-friesian) and chukurova milk sheep (50% awassi + 50% hios), (Darcan and Guney, 2000). According to the same authors, lactation milk production of awassi sheep in Turkey is between 80 to 134 kg. This shows relatively low milk production of Turkish type awassi sheep.

Approximate lactation of awassi sheep found De la Fuente et al., (2006), in Spain (300 l.). Because of low fertility, the awassi breed in Spain is gradually being replaced with asaf breed, which number is growing rapidly and is between 600.000 and 700.000 sheep. The reason for rapid spreading of this breed is the high dairy production (278 l.) compared with domestic population like chura, whose maximum milk production is 127 l.

According to Pollott et al. (1998), milk production of Turkish awassi sheep for the period of 90 days is 113 kg, controlled between 75th and 165th day. According to these authors, average daily milk production in March was 1.22±0.015kg, and the one controlled in June was 0.69±0.01kg. According to Mavrogenis (1995), average milk production on 90 day for hios and awassi breeds was 130 and 113 kg, while the crossbreeds between hios x awassi and awassi x hios for the same period was 131 and 119 kg. Total milk production for these breeds was 174, 173, 167 and 150 kg.

All this informations about awassi milk production gives the fact that in different regions (Turkey, Cyprus, Macedonia, Spain) it is different and gives some differences between the countries. When we are talking about east-friesian dairy production, McKusik et al., (2001) in the USA found production of commercial milk of 223 kg, with average daily milk production of 1.28 kg, which as a quantity is close to that discovered in our examinations. Maximum daily milk production (so called pik dairy production) for this breed according to the same authors, depending on the used system for lamb weaning is 2.93 kg. Comparing the production traits between east-friesian and dorset breeds, Thomas et al., (1999) discovered bigger milk production of east-friesian sheep which had significant longer lactation.

Lactation length of the examined populations was insignificantly bigger (P>0.05) for east-friesian breed (264 days) compared to awassi breed (257 days), (Figure 3).


Figure 3.

The lenght of the lactation with min and max on awassi and east-friesian sheep



Significant shorter lactation of awassi breed sheep in Turkey, found Gursoy et al., (1992) according to whom it is between 168.3 to 198.2 days. Also Todorovski et al., (1985) for awassi sheep in R. Macedonia found shorter lactation length 199 days, or in other words 66 days of suckling period and 133 days milking. According to Hristov (1983) average lactation length of awassi sheep in Bulgaria is about 200 days, while Mavrogenis (1995) for this breed discovered average lactation length of 173 days, while for crossbreeds hios x awassi and awassi h hios it was 133 and 118 days, separately. Shorter lactation is found at east-friesian sheep, examined by many other authors: Mroczkowski and Borys (1999), McKusick et al., (2001).

At awassi sheep was found significant higher percentage (P<0.01) of milk fat (6.92%), with variations from 5.49 to 9.31%, compared with east-friesian breed (5.64%) where milk fat varied from 4.62 to 7.69%, (Figure 4). Analogue to milk fat percentage, awassi sheep produced and significant (P<0.01) larger quantity of milk fat (19.42 kg) than east-friesian sheep (14.11kg).


Figure 4.

Content of the milk fat with min and max on awassi and east-friesian sheep



Lower percent of milk fat (6.84%) for awassi sheep in R.Macedonia have found Todorovski et al. (1973) with variations from 6.1% to 7.5 %. The same author (Todorovski et al. 1996) have found at awassi sheep almost identical percent of milk fat of 6.8%. According to Mavrogenis (1995) average percent of milk fat for hios and awassi breeds in Cyprus is 6.4 and 7.3%, while crossbreeds hios x awassi and awassi x hios it is 6.5. Average quantity of produced milk fat for the above mentioned populations is 11.1, 12.7, 11.0 and 9.8 kg. These results compared to milk fat percentage are similar with ours, while the quantity of produced milk fat is significantly lower which means lower quantity of milk production, compared with our examinations. Hristov (1983) for newly imported awassi sheep flock in Bulgaria in 1979 year, found out fat milk percentage between 6.71 to 9.05%. Lower milk fat percentage (4.8%) of east-friesian sheep found McKusick et al., (2001) but according to Thomas et al. (1999) milk fat percentage of this breed is 5.04%. The same author discovered significant lower yearly fat production of 5.6 kg per sheep of this breed.

Protein percentage is insignificantly (P>0.05) higher of awassi sheep breed (4.87%) compared with east-friesian (4.85%), (Figure 5), but protein production is significantly (P<0.05) bigger for awassi sheep (13.66 kg) compared with east-friesian (12.12 kg).


Figure 5.

Content of the milk protein with min and max on awassi and east-friesian sheep



According to Epstein (1985) protein percentage for awassi sheep in average is 5.56%. High percentage of proteins of awassi sheep has also found Kern (quote according to Epstein, 1985) and it is between 5.8% in December i.e. at the beginning of lactation, until 7.17 % in September i.e. the end of lactation.

Comparing the number of newly born lambs of sheep, the sheep of east-friesian breed had significant (P<0.01) higher fertility than awassi sheep, or in awassi breed there were born 1.21 lamb per sheep, and east-friesian 1.48. This is in accordance to Epstein (1985) theory according to which sheep have lower fertility percentage than east-friesian sheep. The same author states data for fertility of crossbreeds between awassi and east-friesian breed, according to which it caries and depends on blood in them. There is high percent of twins at pureblood east-friesian sheep and crossbreeds with awassi, but with big blood part of east-friesian sheep. Usual low fertility percent have pureblood awassi as crossbreeds with high blood awassi percent. So sheep with 5/8 and 3/4 awassi blood part have strongly low fertility percent as the pureblood awassi while crossbreeds with 5/8 and 3/4 blood part from east-fraisen breed outcome in fertility only the pureblood awassi and those with high blood awassi part and not those of east-friesian sheep.

In this study also the degree of some factors ( lactation, number of milk controls, fertility and month of control) were defined according to daily milk production (in the morning, in the evening and total) as on the milk content and proteins in milk at the two examined populations of sheep. (Tables 1 and 2).


Table 1.

Influence of some fixed factors upon the daily milk production at east-friesian sheep, F- statistics



of influence


Milk production













Test day







№ of lambs







Month of control







R - Koef. of determination







ns – non significant, * - P<0,05, ** - P<0,01, *** - P<0,001


According to the information in Table 1, only month of control influences greatly (P<0.01) on all the other parameters and for east-frieisan breed. The age or sequence of lactation influences very significant on protein content (P<0.001) and significant (P<0.05) on evening and total milk, also on the fat and protein percentage. This factor only had smaller influence (P<0.05) on the morning milk. The number of lambs born significantly affects (P<0.001) on evening milk and fat percent, and there is no influence on morning milk and protein percentage.

The coefficient of determination for the examined factors for east-friesian breed is between from 0.252 for protein percent up to 0.792 for total daily milk and milk fat percentage.

The influence of the same factors for awassi sheep are presented in Table 2.


Table 2.

Influence of some fixed factors upon the daily milk production at awassi sheep, F- statistics



of influence


Milk production













Test day







№ of lambs







Month of control







R - Koef. of determination







ns – non significant, * - P<0,05, ** - P<0,01, *** - P<0,001


According to Table 2, most examined factors affect significantly (P<0.001) on daily milk production of awassi sheep. Only lactation influences with smaller significance (importance) on the fat percent (P<0.01) and proteins (P<0.05). The number of lambs born per sheep does not affect (P>0.05) on content and fat and protein percent in the milk for this breed. On awassi sheep, the influence of month of control was the same with the influence of number of milk control (test day). The determination coefficient for the examined factors is between 0.193 for protein content to 0.868 for fat percent. This is in accordance with the examination of Cappio-Borlino et al. (1997) who by “test day” model, also found out that lactation sequence has influence on milk fat and protein percentage, but less than dairy production. According to these authors, significant influence on the fat and protein content had the period of lamb birth. Similar results had Dimov et al. (2005).




According to performed examinations of the sheep of these two breeds during 2006, the following conclusions can be drawn:

1. Awassi sheep had significantly (P<0.05) higher total milk production than east-friesian sheep,

2. Lactation was insignificantly longer (P>0.05) of east-friesian sheep (264 days) compared to awassi breed (257 days),

3. Greatly higher fat percent (P<0.01) was found at awassi sheep (6.92%) compared to east-friesian breed (5.64%). Analogue on fat percent, awassi sheep produced significantly (P<0.01) higher quantity milk fat (19.42 kg) than east-friesian sheep (14.11 kg ),

4. Protein percent is insignificantly (P>0.05) higher at awassi sheep (4.87%) compared to east-friesian (4.85%), but protein production is significantly (P<0.05) higher for awassi sheep compared with east-friesian. This is probably because of the bigger quantity of produced milk of awassi sheep,

5. East-Friesian sheep had significantly (P<0.01) bigger fertility (148%) than awassi (121) or in other words awassi breed had 1.21 lamb per sheep, and east-friesan 1.48,

6. Only month of milk control affects high significantly (P<0.001) on all the examined parameters at east-friesian breed. The influence of fixed factors on the other parameters is different and depends on each parameter,

7. Most examined factors affect with high significance (P<0.001) on daily milk production of awassi sheep. Only the number of lambs born per sheep does not affect (P>0.05) on content or protein percent for both breed.


The received results should be taken into account when use these breeds for genetic improvement of domestic sheep populations for dairy production.




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N. Pacinovski, Elena Eftimova: Institute of Animal Sciences, str. Ile Ilievski, 92A, Skopje, Macedonia,

M. Gievski: Awassi Mediterranean Farm, vil. Gradishte, Kumanovo, Macedonia


Corresponding author:

Nikola Pacinovski, E-mail: