Proper milk handling leads to good marketing

Inset is a glass of milk. Dairy cows must be fed on good and clean feeds to give high milk yields. PHOTO/MICHAEL J SSALI

What you need to know:

  • Public health regulations require all people doing milking to be meticulously clean and it is recommended that they wear white overalls and white gum boots which will quickly indicate any form of dirt.

Milk production is one of the major reasons for keeping cows. Milk is said to be nature’s best food especially for babies. It is recommended to be part of the diet in every home for healthy living and its production can be lucrative business.

There is a big demand for milk both within local communities where dairy cattle farmers live and in towns where, besides urban consumers, there are factories that turn milk into products such as ghee, yoghurt, butter, cheese, among others. Keeping cattle is also a big source of income since they can be sold for meat apart from producing milk.

High degree of hygiene
Milk production requires a high degree of hygiene since it is a very perishable commodity besides being human food. Dr Herman Ssekiwunga, formerly Mpigi District Veterinary Officer, says good quality milk production begins with the health condition of the cow itself. 

“The cow must be in good health and free from such diseases as tuberculosis, brucellosis, mastitis, and any others. The cow’s breasts and teats must be well washed with clean water before milking takes place.” He went on to say that the milking shed should be spotlessly clean without any rubbish in the nearby area which could be a breeding ground for flies. He also said the person who does the milking should equally be clean and in good health. “He or she should not be the kind of person who coughs and sneezes all the time. We don’t want a person that could transmit tuberculosis germs into the milk,” says Dr Ssekiwunga. 

Public health regulations require all the people doing the milking to be meticulously clean and it is recommended that they wear white overalls and white gum boots which will quickly indicate any form of dirt.

Dr Ssekiwunga went on to say that all utensils and containers used for milking should be dry, sterile, and well cleaned with the use of disinfectants.  

Farmers are always asked to seek guidance from their area veterinary extension officers regarding the health issues of their cows.  For example they have to know where to purchase milking salve which is applied to avoid cracking of teats. When the teats develop wounds the cow feels pain during milking and any milk containing blood or pus is unfit for human consumption. The milk should be covered and kept in spotlessly clean containers. Careless handling of milk may render it unhygienic and difficult to market as human food.

Milk storage  
Farmers who use milking machines must ensure that the different parts of the machine are cleaned with soap and kept dry. The harvested milk must be kept in refrigerators or coolers to prevent bacteria attack and deterioration.

If there are no cooling facilities the milk may be boiled perhaps every six hours to prevent it from getting spoiled. Farmers are further expected to obey quarantine regulations if there is an outbreak of a contagious disease such as Foot and Mouth Disease which prohibits the movement of milk from one region to another.  

There ought to be a way of quickly transporting milk to the markets where it is sold. A delay could lead to spoilage and loss of the milk.  If any of the milk quality control measures are not strictly observed the consequences may be as dire as causing a total ban on the export of our milk to foreign countries.

Guidelines at milking 

Agriculturists recommend that before milking takes place the cow should be driven to the milking place and its hind legs tied with a rope. This should be followed with washing all around the teats and the udder with lukewarm water to remove any form of dirt.

The organs are again washed and dried after milking. The milk must not carry any foreign objects or smells. The preparations for milking include putting in place all the containers and equipment which must all be clean and dry.

According to our 2021 national livestock census conducted by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the country’s annual milk production stands at 3.7 billion litres ---- an average of 71.7 million litres per week. Uganda has 14.2 million heads of cattle and 16 million goats. Goat milk harvesting is not widely practiced in Uganda but dairy goat keeping is somehow becoming popular in many towns among small scale farmers.

Right breeds 
Dr Paul Kanoonya, retired Masaka District Production Officer, says that in order to maximize milk production farmers must get the right breeds and feed them well. “Before independence the British Agriculture Officers did not believe that exotic cows from the temperate region could survive in Uganda’s climatic conditions and the country’s local cattle disease causing parasites,” he said.

“They believed that if the cows from Europe were introduced into Uganda they would ‘boil in their own blood’ as they actually put it. It was only after independence that exotic cattle were brought into the country along with the Nile Perch fish by the then Minister Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, John Babiiha.”  

Kanoonya says the exotic breeds which include, the Friesian, the Ayshire, the Jersey, the Guernsey, and the Sahiwal are the best for milk production. He says that with good care many cows of these breeds may produce up to forty litres of milk per day. “When feeding the cow, the main thing to have in mind is that the cow feeds primarily to sustain itself. It has a big biomass of up to four or five hundred kilograms which must be well nourished.

Secondly, the cow must eat enough food to sustain its pregnancy.  Then thirdly it must eat enough food to produce enough milk for its new born. As far as the cow is concerned these three are its major concerns and not the milk for the farmer. What the farmer takes should be what remains after the calf has drunk its due amount.”

He goes on to say that if the farmer wants to get a lot of milk the feeding of the animal must be very good. “When the feeding is insufficient, milk production reduces. The calf will not grow well and it may even starve.  If the cow is still pregnant and the feeding is poor it could abort.”

So, Dr Kanoonya insists the dairy cow must be very well fed with nutritious fodder and even feed supplements. He further says that farmers should always engage with their area vet officers and agricultural services extension officers to get guidance on what feed supplements to give to their cows.

Rev Father Peter Ssenkaayi, the Managing Director of MADDO Diaries, in Masaka, told Seeds of Gold that all cattle keepers are required to grow fodder grass and trees before they are provided with cow loans by MADDO. The farmers are given prior training in cattle feeding and helped to plant fodder grass gardens before receiving the cows. MADDO buys the milk from the farmers now numbering over three thousand to make yoghurt and other products.

Farmers who use milking machines must ensure that the different parts of the machine are cleaned with soap and kept dry.