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Traditionally milk is either consumed raw or allowed to ferment naturally but is rarely boiled unless used for tea making. In fact in some communities such as among the Maasai it is a taboo to heat milk (Shalo, 1987). However among the settled farmers in western Kenya, boiling of milk is a common practice except when it is meant for the production of sour milk (Boor et al 1987).

Among the pastoralists, milk is a major component of the traditional diet and as such most of the milk produced is consumed in the home and is rarely sold. Hence conversion of any surplus liquid milk to any of the traditional milk products has always been done at the household level. There is no record, historical or contemporary, to show that milk processing has ever been organised at the community level such as is the case with the harvesting, threshing and winnowing of millets, paddy or sorghum or in the hunting of wildlife.

The fact that milk processing is confined to the household level, and the amount of milk processed is usually small, means that the equipment and vessels used as well as the techniques, have remained simple for a very long time. The main products made include fermented milk, butter and ghee and in a few cases cheese curds or concentrated fermented milk foods with enhanced keeping quality.

Estimates of the amounts of milk available in the countries of southern and eastern Africa for traditional milk products are given in Table 4.


Traditionally, milking and processing are the affairs of each family. The milk for processing can either be an accumulation from a single milk animal or from a larger number of animals. The milk thus accumulated is processed into different products by each household. Industrial level processing is done by the government plants in Addis Ababa and Asmara. These two plants collect milk from rural areas in the proximity of all-weather roads and within a maximum radius of 120 km from the plant.

In recent years, some producer cooperatives which have local and cross-bred dairy herds, and who are away from liquid milk markets, communally process their milk. They use a cream separator and butter churn, which are imported and manually operated.


Traditionally milk processing is done at the family level. The milk from a milk animal or a herd or flock is kept in a calabash container. Whatever milk is available for processing into traditional products is done by the housewife.

The only industrial processing in Mail is done by Union Laitiere de Bamako (ULB). The ULB has a capacity of 30 thousand litres a day, operating in two shifts. The plant is supplied with fresh milk from the surrounding producers and hawkers on a twice-daily basis. ULB pasteurizes the whole milk and reconstitutes imported milk products. The products from the factory are pasteurized and reconstituted milk, yoghurt flavoured, sweetened and without additives, fermented milk, sour and sweet cream, table butter and ghee.


4.1 Dairy factories - industrial dairy products.

From the point of view of the relationship between the milk used by the big factories and that processed at farm dairy units, the exporter countries Argentina and Uruguay take the first place for proportion of milk utilized in industrial units. The next group comprises Chile and Brazil who both use large amounts of milk in dairy factories too but farm product marketing in the country is also important in the industrial dairy plants. Finally, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay are joined in a group because the milk supply is manufactured into dairy product mainly by the individual farmer (see Table 16).

Table 16. Total milk production of southcone countries of Latin America in 1986 and usage at factory and farm levels (million litres)
 Total milk production (1) (2)Milk used at the dairy factoryMilk remaining at farm (3)
Argentina6.2005.580 (90%)620 (10%)
Bolivia9524 (25%)71 (75%)
Brazil11.8606.997 (59%)4.863 (41%)
Chile1.093666 (60.9%)427 (39.1%)
Paraguay19023 (12%)167 (88%)
Peru829174 (21%)655 (79%)
Uruguay920641 (69%)289 (31%)

Compilation by Brito (1989)

1. Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, additionally have goat milk used at farm to produce goat cheese.

2. FAO temporary figure

3. Milk for calf feeding, human consumption at the farm, raw milk directly sold to the consumers and to prepare dairy products at small units (farms).

In Argentina in the industrial dairy sector, cheese is the most important product followed by milk powder and fluid milk. It has a considerable production (around 48.706 metric tons) of Dulce de leche which is a traditional dairy product in several countries in Latin America now made to high quality standards in dairy factories. Uruguay has cheese as its most important product of the dairy factories. Several varieties are produced for domestic use and export. The most important traditional products made both by the industrial sector plants and by small units in Brazil are:- sweetened condensed milk, Prato cheese, fresh and ripened Minas cheese, mozzarella cheese and requeson.

4.2 Small dairy processing units for traditional dairy products.

Generally speaking a large proportion of the milk produced in Latin American countries is not dispatched to the industrial dairy ndustry (Table 16) but is used at the farm to make some dairy products which are very typical in that particular region of the world.

Traditional dairy products are made on a small scale, they are normally sold at a town nearby and the end product is not standardized. However, their production remains related to some particular characteristics in the national dairy production systems and geographical characteristics of the region of the world. The main factors which are responsible for this sort of production in the developing countries are:

  1. There are large distances from the farm to the nearest city where the product could be sold.

  2. In some regions of those countries, roads are not good enough to make easy and fast transportation of milk to the commercial milk plants in order to provide a fresh and good quality raw material to use at the dairy industry. In some countries during winter time there are villages which become isolated due to the impossibility of transit by their poor roads.

  3. There are many small dairy farmers who produce a very small amount of milk each day, and being normally located far away from each other the collection costs are very expensive.

  4. The milk prices, paid by the industrial dairy industry to the small farmers are punishing because:

Nevertheless, technical projects to improve milk quality have been developed in some of those countries. Most of the small farmers have not adopted new technology. They continue to work with the traditional methods and encounter the traditional troubles mentioned before.

According to the industrial characteristics of the southcone countries of Latin America and their milk marketing, it is very clear that the main traditional dairy producers are those of group two: Chile and Brazil and group three: Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Since all southcone countries are geographically close and have some common historical conditions there are some traditional products which are made in most of them. This is so for sweetened condensed milk which probably was brought with the Spanish conqueror and is very well known and traditionally included in diets all over these countries. Even so, for between 10–20 years this product has been introduced as an industrial product in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile and it has remained until now as one of the typical products made in the small processing units of the dairy farms.

In general, something similar occurs with traditional cheese production. Most have passed from the stage of traditional preparation to that of the industrial factories with the introduction of some new technology to improve the microbiological and organoleptic characteristics of the end product which are somewhat different from other regional cheeses.

Small dairy processing units which produce traditional dairy products in southcone countries of Latin America are normally located at the dairy farm, but some of them are close to the cities. However, the processing units normally belong to a farmer whose milk supply comes only from his own farm or from neighbouring farms as well.

There are very small processing units with only around 30 to 300 litres of milk being processed each day, other with about 1,000 to 3,000 litres per day and finally small factories that process up to 20,000 litres per day (e.g. some units located in the South of Chile: X Region).

Those up to 3,000 litres per day are the truly traditional processing units with the minimum of very rudimentary equipment no electric, heating or power sources. Milk is not pasteurized.

The main building for processing is normally an improved old farm building without special facilities for food processing except in some particular cases, where new ones built under technical specifications which are the same as a factory but on a small scale.

The main traditional dairy processing units are the cheesemaking units where some butter is made with the surplus milk fat from standardization of cheese milk. Butter is a secondary product of a small cheesemaker unit.

These units have a cheese vat made of wood, hard plastic (femoglass), or in the best case, of stainless steel. Moulds are normally made of wood.

Only the very best have stainless steel moulds, plastic is not very much used. A cheese press is also present in the processing units, it is usually a very old design used earlier in grape processing at the farm.

All the other small implements for cheese processing are adopted from home kitchen devices (spoon, knives, etc.). Butter processing equipment normally consists of a very small separator and a small rotary churn made of wood. Packaging of the butter is done by hand. There are no cool rooms or refrigeration equipment for storage. Normally the ripening room is close to the processing area in an old farm building without controlled environment conditions.

In the case of Argentina, even though the main cheese makers are big factories, there are small cheese producers who process around 1000 litres of milk each day. They produce farm cheese from milk which has been heat treated by the low temperature for a long time (LTLT) method. All the cheesemaking practices are manual, pressing is carried out through the use of a weight. Salting is done at ambient temperature.

Normally cheese of poor quality is obtained due to the poor quality raw milk used and the bad conditions under which the product is made. Because those small farmers are isolated they do not belong as producers supplying a milk factory.

They do not have access to technical help which is offered by the factory only to their own producers. These producers may disappear since their activities became much more difficult from working alone.

According to the individual country there may be regulations, legislation or control of those establishments.

In Brazil for instance, the marketing of farm cheese is forbidden even though it is normally produced and directly sold to the consumers. Consequently, there are no regulations concerning the establishment of small scale farm units or the cheese produced by this group. Fifty-nine per cent of Brazil's milk production was supplied to the dairy factories in 1986 and was subjected to Federal Inspection procedures.

Uruguay on the other hand, has special standards that regulate the minimum requirements for cheese making at the farm in order to control the quality of these products.

In the case of Chile there are some standards related to the minimum requirements to build a small processing unit for any dairy product in order to be authorized by the Health Ministry, but only if these requirements are met can the products be sold at any market. In addition the same Ministry eventually makes quality control of the products in the same way as for the products of big factory products. In spite of this most of the very small processing units (50–300 litres milk/day and some of larger production) are not authorized because they do not have financial capacity to implement the minimum requirements of the Health Ministry and most of them are temporary processors and sell their products in an informal market, that is to say an open market, and the product is not controlled by official regulations at all. There are no statistics about this sector.

In Chile there are 126 authorized cheesemaker units located from V Region (Valparaiso) to X Region (Valdivia-Puerto Montt). They are permanent units producing throughout the year and using about 130 million litres of milk per year in the last 5 or 7 years. The first statistical information of this sector dates from 1985.

Authorized small cheesemakers have technical help through a big technical project (from V to X Region) undertaken by the Milk Technology Centre and financed by the Agriculture Ministry from 1985 through which this sector was identified for the first time. The products are systematically controlled, with transfer of medium applied technology to them through a) inspection of establishment b) self-training courses in the regions using a specific manual c) seminars in the region on particular milk production and cheesemaking topics d) theoretical and practical courses (of 1 week duration) on cheesemaking, carried out at the CTL Valdivia, etc.

However, besides the 130 million litres/year used by the authorized small cheesemaker units, there are some other authorized small dairies that process sweetened condensed milk, using part of the milk retained at the farm. Another part of the milk remaining at the farm is sold as raw milk directly to the consumers. This practice is legal in regions where there are no dairy factories, but it is also done in other regions and the milk is sold illegally.

Countries like Peru and Bolivia have had some technical projects in relationship with the development of national cheesemaker units with international help such as Switzerland Technical Aid, e.g. the Cochabamba and Sta. Cruz dairy projects in Bolivia. Through the same technical help 80 rural cheesemaker units have been created in dairying regions of Peru.

In Paraguay, the Memmonitas area has had some special projects to develop milk production, processing and marketing (US$ 10,7000,000 from 1978 onwards). In addition, an interesting project to create a Dairy Centre at the National University of Paraguay has been in progress since 1987 to provide technical help for professionals and workers involved in dairy production in the country.

Despite these developments in the southcone countries of Latin America small processing units and traditional dairy products have not yet been developed to their full potential in accordance with the regional importance of this agricultural subsector. For 5 to 10 years now, people have been realizing that there is an urgent need to encourage special projects to develop in this sector. The national and international projects just mentioned are the first approaches to develop it. Nevertheless more practical national plans should be encouraged to develop it completely in order to have appropriate legislation and policies all over each country.


The amount of milk available for processing in large industrial plants and the private or smaller factories can reach 35 per cent of the total milk produced in Syria. This amount comes partly from the government centres for milk production from cows and then from sheep and goats.

In some production areas which are quite near to the processing plants some producers sell their milk to these plants. The price of milk is determined according to a ‘quality payment system’ which may be defined as a system of payment in which the price paid to the producers is determined by defined qualities of the milk which are:

  1. Milk acidity,

  2. Fat content in the milk,

  3. Bacteriological content or quality,

  4. Absence of dust, hair and other extraneous materials.

Also, there are many co-operatives for small-holders for both cattle and sheep supplying the dairy plants with raw milk to be processed into different products.

Until now, the co-operative movement in the dairy sector does not have the proper structure to effect the dynamic role to advance the industry.

Most milk producers, process the milk produced in their farms into many products such as yoghurt (laban, drained yoghurt (labaneh or laban Mousafa), cream (koshtah), butter (zobdeh), ghee (samneh), cheese (jobneh) and some other national products like shenglish, karisheh and keshkeh.

In manufacturing these products from raw milk, the farmers use very simple methods to process their milk. The processing levels at the villages differ from one region to another according to the final product and the education level of the farmer and his family.

The milk processing level in the villages is not as advanced as in the government plants and can be described as simple methods to store the milk produced in different forms and tastes. The equipment used in the village for milk processing is extremely simple and can be summarised as follows:-

  1. Tin and copper containers, used in milk boiling,

  2. Kerosene or gas burners used for heating up the milk but the most common way for milk boiling is using shrubs and kindlings as fuel,

  3. Sacks made of animal skin to hold the cream being churned into butter,

  4. For manufacturing drained yoghurt (labaneh) some cloth sacks are used to drain off the whey from yoghurt.

At the governmental level, Syria has three advanced factories in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs as well as the Syrian - Saudi company factory which was established in 1979.

Each factory consists of different production lines (yoghurt cheese, ghee etc.) and the equipment and machinery used ranges from rather outdated models to modern sophisticated process lines.

As mentioned earlier, the government cattle stations and some co-operatives and some smallholder farmers supply these factories with raw milk. The milk which is to be processed in these factories is handled under hygienic conditions in order to maintain the good quality.

Table 17 refers to the amount of milk processed between 1983–1987 into different products.

Table 17. Quantities of milk processed into products from 1983–1987 (metric tons)
Pasteurised milk7,5769,0658,4089,5828,940



Level of Production. Milk is mostly produced in small quantities, of 2–4 litres, by small and marginal farmers in numerous and widely scattered villages. The farmers whose principal occupation is agriculture, keep a few cows or buffaloes for milk production (2–4 animals on an average) as a supplementary source of income. Table 18 (see page 46) shows the size of land holdings of typical farmers. It can be seen that the bulk of the animals are held by small and marginal farmers and surprisingly not by large farmers.

The collection, transport and distribution of fluid milk under the tropical conditions prevailing in India and the neighbouring countries present many difficult problems. The production of milk in villages takes place on a very small scale in numerous scattered holdings, which makes the task of collection difficult. Many villages are not connected by good roads, and many more are inaccessible during the monsoon rains. There are no facilities for cooling or refrigeration of milk on receipt at a village collection centre and rapid transport to a processing centre is hampered by lack of facilities and infrastructure. Under these conditions, procurement of milk of suitable quality in a condition fit for processing into marketable products is a formidable organisational task which has been performed well by many dairy cooperatives on a fairly large scale.

Numerous agencies and persons are involved in the collection, transport and distribution of milk; village producers who directly supply milk to village cooperatives, milk collectors who collect milk from producers and supply to the collection centres of organised dairies or to urban areas or halwais (traditional manufacturers of sweets), milk vendors, dairies who process market milk and milk products, wholesalers and retailers. Milk may be carried to the collection point as headloads, or in containers suspended over shoulder slings, on bicycles, on pack animals, or horse drawn carriages depending upon the quantity of milk to be transported and distances involved. In the case of villages situated at greater distances, the milk collectors or agents may transport milk cans in trucks or by rail for sale directly to consumers or halwais and to collection centres or private dairies. In some cases, milk is also transported in small boats.

For long distance transport of milk, galvanized iron cans (fabricated locally) or factory made aluminium alloy milk cans are generally employed, and where the collection and transport of milk supplies are organised by milk cooperatives or by large dairies, the cans are cleaned and steamed at the dairy and then returned to the collection centres. Public sector/cooperative dairies have their own milk collection and distribution systems and their major responsibility is that of distribution of pasteurised milk to consumers. These dairies now account for some 25 per cent of all the milk marketed in India. Cooperative milk unions have been organised in several parts of the country and have tackled successfully the twin problems of marketing the rurally produced milk and of supplying good quality milk to the urban population. Presently, some 447 cities in India are served by the organised sector, handling over some 7 million litres of hygienically processed milk per day. They cater for some 55 million customers.

The demand for fluid milk of the four major cities in India (Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras) is estimated at about 6 million litres per day of which nearly 50 per cent, or 3 million litres per day, is provided by the ten public sector dairy plants in these cities. The remaining 50 per cent of the demand is still being supplied by the traditional milk trade.

Milk produced in large scale organised farms with herds of from 100–1000 head of cattle and buffalo constitutes only a negligible fraction of market milk in India. Some of these farms also have pasteurising plants and cold storage facilities.

Some 10 per cent of the milk produced in India is processed by the organised sector in 250 dairy plants in the cooperative, public and private sectors with a combined throughput of 12 million litres per day.


Particularly in Nepal and Bhutan, according to the availability of feed, the herds are moved over rough and tough mountains and hills to the new pastures. So it becomes necessary to follow the herds and make the traditional type of milk products en route. The keepers of yak, nak, chauri or cows have to stop in each place. The animal keepers have huts as well as mobile types of housing, such as tents, and other structures built of stones. During the monsoon, the rain, snow and wind penetrate the structures. Farmers have to carry all their equipment with them along with the herds. In the alpine regions of Nepal and Bhutan, yak and chauri herds are migratory in nature and have natural breeding. The milk supply is at its peak in the summer months and decreases in winter to nothing. In the winter season the fodder and feed supply is seldom sufficient. Therefore, the traditional type of milk products are not manufactured in the winter season.

In the mid-hills and valley regions of Nepal and Bhutan, stall feeding and grazing of animals both are practiced in the villages. The processing of milk and milk products is done mainly in the villages where there is no liquid milk demand and supply. Especially in Nepal, cottage type cheese and dahi (yoghurt) are produced. In the rural areas milk is ‘boiled’, but without knowing any exact temperature of treatment. In the urban areas, modern methods are now used for processing milk and products including cottage cheese.

In Nepal and Bhutan particularly in the alpine regions, sometimes, the milk is boiled at herd level. But in eastern Bhutan, boiling or pasteurisation of milk for the manufacture of traditional milk products is not practised.

In Nepal, the modern technology of milk processing for yoghurt making is undertaken by the Dairy Development Corporation and some private dairies which have modern equipment and machines.

Table 18. Land and milch animal holdings in India.
Particulars*Total operational land holding (TOL) groupsAll
Number of households surveyed2,122,2781,687,2101,022,370653,740501,4895,987,087
Average household size
(No. of persons/household)
Household owning milch animals769,7301,052,169798,960558,586444,5603,624,005
Cross-bred cows88,295186,627117,34786,86099,322578,451
Other cows449,501766,606707,470554,246754,6333,232,456
Upgraded buffaloes143,735140,214149,172169,579202,151804,851
Other buffaloes708,945997,855958,047839,991820,7274,325,565
Average number of milch animals held
by a producer household:
-Cross-bred cows0.
-Other cows0.580.730.890.991.700.89
-Upgraded buffaloes0.
-Other buffaloes0.920.951.201.501.851.19

* TOL 1: Land less, TOL 2: Up to 2.50 acres, TOL 3: 2.51 acres to 5.00 acres, TOL 4: 5.01 acres to 10.00 acres, TOL 5: 10.1 acres and above.

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