29 May - 28 July, 2000


E-mail conference on
"Small Scale Milk Collection and Processing
in Developing Countries"

Poster Paper: Milk Production in the Highlands of South Africa





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Topic 1: from farm to collection point, clean milk production

By:  Nellie A. Prinsloo and J.J. Keller, ARC-Animal Nutrition and Animal
Products Institute, P/B X2, Irene, 0062, RSA

1. Introduction

Although 2.2 million tonnes of commercially produced fresh milk had been
recorded during 1999 in South Africa, this figure excludes milk produced by
small and rural producers. In the rural areas the milk produced is usually
consumed within the household. Yet, some entrepreneurs have already entered the commercial market in this country. Similar to countries in the rest of Africa (especially Southern Africa), long distances, lack of facilities and a harsh climate drastically affects the quality and quantity of the milk
produced by the small, South African rural farmer.




2. Background

In the mountainous highlands of South Africa, developing farmers are
shareholders in a dairy factory that manufactures fresh milk, yoghurt,
drinking yoghurt, maas (a fermented milk product) and a small number of
Gouda and Cheddar cheeses. The products are sold to the +/- 600 000 locals living in and around the nearby town. 

The milk is supplied by the 40 shareholders to the factory, all living
within a 70 kilometre radius from the factory. Only two of the farmers have milking parlours and produce about 800 litres and 400 litres of milk
respectively. The other farmers are lacking milking facilities completely.
The animals are of mixed breeds, feed on natural grasslands and pastures and despite winter rainfall and snow, no supplementary green feed is given to the animals. The factory needs 13 000 litres of milk per day, but due to a 
recent draught, only about 6 000 litres of milk are received daily. This is 
a typical example of the seasonal impact on milk production in rural areas.
Poor hygiene practices will have a totally detrimental effect on the
viability of the venture.

In South Africa the concept of collection points for receiving raw milk is
not regularly used in the rural areas. In this case, milk is transported by
light open truck, horse or donkey cart, tractor and bicycle to three
collection points. Payment is determined by the volume of milk supplied by
the farmer and is only accepted after it complies with the alcohol test. The
milk is then being taken to the dairy factory by three tankers. At the
factory total counts, coliforms and E.coli counts are determined.

3. Training and recommendations

Training was provided for the group of farmers (including the women),
collection point personnel and the factory personnel. A training manual and training material was composed consisting of the following modules:

  • Personal hygiene
  • Micro-organisms
  • Micro-organisms: importance
  • Micro-organisms: destruction
  • Micro-organisms: control
  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • General cleaning

Personal hygiene was the first subject on which the farmers were trained. A
simple, effective hygiene routine already positively influences the
microbiological quality of raw milk. 

Milking machines are great sources of contamination and hand milking often results in milk of a higher microbiological standard, provided that both animal and handler are healthy. Emphasis was placed on the area being used for milking the cows to be, as far as possible, free from any excreta. It is also preferable not to feed the cow whilst milking is in progress. The
farmers were advised to wash the udder after which it has to be dried with a
paper towel. If there is no municipal water available, only pre-boiled water
should be used. Almost none of the farmers used antibiotics to treat
mastitis. The concept of using a mastitis strip (test) cup for each quarter
was well accepted by everyone. 

The use of cloth aggregates microbial contamination, as micro-organisms are able to colonise the material at an alarming rate. Therefore substitution
with paper towels was advocated.  It is also not desirable to use a milk
cloth in order to filter out impurities. In this case the use of an in-line
filter at the collection tanks was suggested. 

The importance of cleaning and sanitising was demonstrated to the farmers.
They used to clean their own milking cans, often with an undesired effect.
The correct cleaning and sanitising methods and agents were being used by
the personnel at the collection points. They were tasked with the
responsibility of ensuring the cleaning and sanitising of the farmers' milk
cans at the collection points immediately after receiving the milk. The milk
cans will then be kept closed while being transported back to the farm.
Milking took place during the very early hours, minimising the need for
cooling facilities during transportation. 


Bacterial counts of the raw milked decreased with nearly 70% and the keeping time increased from 3 to 7 days. Although use of the Lactoperoxidase system is not currently allowed in South Africa, according to legislation, the use of this system will be ideal in the above mentioned situation, as for other rural milk producers. 


Keller, J.J. & Prinsloo, N.A. 1999. Training manual for Thaba Dairies.
Reid, R. 2000. Milk - but little honey. Dairy Industries International,

Mrs. N.A.Prinsloo Microbiology Dept. Animal Products and Food Safety ARC- Animal Nutrition and Animal Products Institute PB X2 Irene RSA 0062  E-mail: Nellie@idpi1.agric.za Tel.: +2712 672 9299 Fax: +2712 665 1551

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