Every farmer desires to produce milk that is fresh and clean for the market. When these qualities are attained, the farmer attracts a premium for the milk and overcomes milk rejection. The two most important conditions to maintain freshness are low temperature and good hygiene.
The low temperature slows down bacterial multiplication in the milk. Some ways to achieve this are:
Timing: the first way to keep raw milk temperatures low is to milk early in the morning or late in the evening when the environmental temperatures are low. After milking, the milk should be delivered to the processors within the shortest time possible. If this is not feasible, then there are a few storage tricks the farmers can apply.
Storage tricks: A simple storage method is to dip the milk can in cold water. This slows the temperature of the milk and slows bacterial growth.
Some farmers have been innovative and have used cold sand. They make a hole in the sand which is under a shade. They then pour cold water in the sand and put the milk can in the wetted sand hole. This can buy the farmer a few hours which can mean the difference between a processor buying the milk and rejecting it.
Over the long term, a farmer needs to invest in some kind of refrigerator. A local fridge can be constructed from charcoal and tin. The charcoal is wired around a tin container then water is poured over the charcoal. This will help keep the interior of the tin very cool. Improvised devices can only hold a limited amount of milk.
Cooperative groups: A more commercially effective way is for farmers to form themselves into groups and invest in cooling tanks. This will entail checking the quality of milk from the farmers before it is accepted for storage into the tanks.
Good Hygiene Practices
Hygiene is the hallmark of clean milk production. This can be achieved through.
Personnel choice: The farmhand who does the milking is very important in maintaining high standards around the milking process. He or she should be clean, presentable, and have some basic training on how to handle milk. Many farmers get it wrong here. They hire someone without much scrutiny of the aptitudes of the person or they do not invest in training of the employee. Farmers should, therefore, strive to hire and train well.
Milking utensils: One the farmhand is well trained, the next thing a farmer should do is invest in the appropriate utensils. These utensils should be made of aluminium rather than plastic. The aluminium ones are more expensive but they dissipate heat faster from warm fresh milk. This makes the investment worth it because the milk will be better stored.
Cleanliness: it is not enough to have the right personnel and the right utensils. Farmhand needs to maintain personal hygiene. They must wash their hands with soap before embarking on the milking.
They must then ensure that all the milking utensils are well cleaned and ready for the milking process.
The next focus should be laid on cleaning the udder of the cow to be milked. The udder harbors a lot of bacteria just like any other surface of the animal. It should, therefore, be thoroughly washed with warm water which has mild detergent to help get rid of the bacteria.
Milking parlor: How clean is your milking parlor? If the milking parlor is not in a clean and separated area, there is a big chance that a lot of bacteria will find its way to the milk even during the milking process. It is advisable to invest in a well-constructed milking parlor. A milking parlor with a concrete floor is easier to clean and the hygiene profile of the entire process.
In conclusion, it is advisable to invest more in hygiene and speeding up the process between milking and sale of milk.
This article has been adapted from Animal Focus Magazine Volume 1 Number 2 by The Kenya Veterinary Association.