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In the traditional sector not all lactating animals are milked. Depending on local traditions and beliefs, sheep and goats may or may not be milked (Nicholson 1984; Boor et al 1987). In the case of cattle some lactating cows may not be milked due to bad temperament, low milk yields or the cessation of the lactation following the death of a calf. Kurwijila (1988) reported that the average milk yield of local cattle excluding milk taken by the calf is generally considered to be one litre per lactation day although yields of two to three litres per day is common with some types of cattle in Zambia (Bessel and Daplyn, 1977), Sudan (Wilson and Clarke, 1976; Kerven, 1987) and Ethiopia (Nicholson, 1983).

In most cases the cows are watered once a day. Lactating cows are not given any special supplementary feeding but they may be allocated the best pastures available.

During the day the calves are grazed separately.

Milking is usually done twice a day; early in the morning and in the evening. Milking is commonly done outside, beside a restraining wooden post erected near the main kraal or under a tree.

The calf is allowed to suckle to stimulate milk let down and the cow is then milked. The calf is allowed to suckle again before being tethered away from the cows for the night or taken to separate grazing grounds during the day. The milking is done by women or children in most pastoral communities but in some agro-pastoral and mixed farming communities, milking is done exclusively by men.

In most cases no attempt is made to wash the udder before milking. This may be due to the practice of allowing the calf to suckle before milking. This will result in some cleaning of the teats. A bad milking practice which is commonly observed (Kurwijila, 1989) is that of the milker dipping his fingers into the milk as a means of lubricating the teats during milking.

Traditional milking vessels may be carved out of wood (this practice is common with agropastoral communities around Lake Victoria) but clay pots and gourds, with wide openings, are more common.

Vessels woven out of animal skins are used by pastoralist peoples such as the Borana in Ethiopia, and the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania.

Shalo (1987) has reported that in some pastoral communities in Kenya a separate gourd is provided for each cow - a family may have as many as twenty or more gourds. The cow is milked direct into the gourd.

The practice of smoking the vessels used for the storage of milk is a common feature of the various pastoral and agropastoral communities in the region. The treatment has the functions of passing the smoke flavour to the milk or milk product and disinfecting (sterilizing) the vessel. Table 13 provided by Kurwijila (1989) lists plant materials including grass, shrubs and hardwoods used by various communities in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania for smoke generation..

Table 13. A preliminary list of plant materials used in the smoking treatment of milk vessels in different African communities.
Country and communityProducts madePlant used in smoking
of vessels used in
milk storage & processing
  local name(s)scientific name 
Borana-PBM,CFM,B,G,-Olea africanaBekele & Kassaye (1985)
""bedana woodBalanities aegypticaBekele & Kassaye (1985)
Maasai-PBM,B,G--Shalo (1987)
Samburu-PBM,B,G--" "
Nandi-AP**BM,CFM,B,G--Shalo (1987)
Kipsigis-AP"""" "
Tugen-AP"""" "
Maasai-PBM,B,GMsisilo/ EmutegoDiplorhynchus condylaccarponPersonal communication
Waarusha-AP"Msengeni Loliondo- -Kurwijila (1989)
  Malamata (grass)-"
  Kalasala (legume)-"
Iraqw-AP"-Combretum spp"
Zigua-MF***"Ngurukila ya  
Jita-MFBM,B,GMwotwaOlea africanaPersonal communication Kurwijila (1989)
Haya-MF"Mkuza nyana  


* P = Pastoralists

** AP = Agropastoralists

*** MF = Mixed Farmers

BM = Buttermilk

CFM = Concentrated fermented milk

B = Butter

G = Ghee

FM = Straight fermented milk

n.d. = Smoking not done

? = Resemblance of name

Personal communication: information given to compiler during oral survey.

Compilation by Kurwijila (1989)


In most cases the milking animals are kept for the night with the rest of the stock in a shade or in an enclosure. Because these places are not kept clean except for the removal of dung the milking cows become soiled with dung and urine. Since it is not a common practice to clean the udder and hindquarters before milking the milk is contaminated.

The cows are milked in the shade, kraal, grazing field and in front of the homestead, none of which are clean environments for milking. The standard of hygiene of milk production is considered unsatisfactory.

Milking vessels are normally made from woven grass, wood fibre, calabash, hollowed wood or skin. Disinfection is difficult and because the vessels are wide mouthed, flies, dust and dirt may easily gain access during milking.

Bekele (1989) reports that the milking vessel is thoroughly washed before the smoking treatment. He considers the cleanliness of the washing water to be doubtful. The disinfecting effect of the smoking treatment is brought about by the hot embers placed in the vessels for a few minutes. In the highlands Olea aficana is the only source of material for smoking whereas in the lowlands the same plant as well as Acacia busia will be used as available.


Traditionally the cattle are kept overnight in enclosures near the homestead and milking is generally done in the enclosures. At times when the animals are sent out for early morning grazing near to the homestead, the milking is done in the grazing field.

Bekele (1989) reports that the containers used for milking and storage are made of calabash. They are bowl-like vessels which are washed and kept clean.

The cows are not cleaned before milking and as the milking environment is not clean, the milk is not clean. He concludes that milking conditions and hygiene are far below the requirements for clean milk production.


Brito (1989) considers that this is the main point in which each of the southcone countries of Latin America has very particular characteristics.

In the case of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, new technology e.g. milking equipment and cooling tanks have been introduced, mainly at medium and large farms. In general in the other southcone countries, i.e. Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, the milking system, milking management and work at the farm are very simple and traditional.

Milk quality and milk production conditions of the main southcone countries may be summarised as follows:-

  1. there are no appropriate breeds for a tropical or Andean zone;

  2. cows are heavily infected with parasites, gastro-intestinal illness and reproductive illnesses which create difficulties for the development of dairy production;

  3. due to the long periods of drought after heavy rains, feeding is difficult and the digestibility of feeds is poor. The use of concentrates for cows is not possible because of cost.

    Cow feeding is one of the main problems for small farmers in all southcone countries;

  4. There is an insufficient regional infrastructure for milk production at the highest level of efficiency;

  5. Very small farms are normally involved in milk production but the farmers need more knowledge on milk production and dairy technology;

  6. Small dairy farmers have limited enterprise capacity and need credit and other economical assistance.


ARGENTINA. More than half of the 4,400 farms producing milk in Argentina produce less than 100 litres per day and these farms are of low economic capacity and unsuitable structure to produce milk. Milk quality is very variable, the better milk comes from big and medium-sized farms which mainly supply the big factories which normally pay for milk quality.

The small farm which supplies the small dairy processing units produces milk of lower quality, consequently traditional products are generally made from poor quality raw milk.

URUGUAY. There are about 8,900 milk-producing farms and around 5,000 of these are specialised in milk production. Over 40 per cent of the farms are classified as small with around 50 hectares of land. Since 1980 the milk production sector has evolved greatly:-

  1. by increases in milk production and technological changes at the milk processing dairies;

  2. milk supplied to the dairy factories has grown by around 80 per cent;

  3. milk processing capacity has increased by about 60 per cent;

  4. milk export values have shown a large increase from around 4.3 million dollars in 1978 to 40 million dollars in 1983.

The Government is responsible for the quality control of dairy products for export and for the general control and hygiene legislation for the dairy industry.

In order to regulate the minimum requirements for cheese production at a dairy farm a specific regulation was established in Uruguay in 1984. Dairy farms producing cheese - an example of traditional milk product manufacture - and not selling milk to the large industrialised farmer cooperatives which have around 90 per cent of the industrial capacity, do not have technical assistance, or credit or other benefits such as those provided for the milk producers who are members of the cooperatives.

The Government aid for dairy farmers particularly the very small farmers are much reduced. Nevertheless the general incentive of dairy product export and the technological improvement by means of milk cooling systems have brought about an improvement in milk quality, particularly at large and medium-sized dairy farms. The small dairy farms have not improved milk quality in the same way as the large farms.


CHILE. At the present time there are an estimated 25,000 farmers producing milk in Chile. Around 70 per cent of them are very small farmers with 5–19 cows each, 25 per cent of medium-sized herds of 20 to 99 cows and the remaining 5 per cent with more than 100 cows each.

Small farmers are the main suppliers to small dairy processing units. They are of very low educational level (around 4 years of primary school), the units are of low economical capacity with few possibilities for enterprise and the farm equipment is very rustic.

They are not very efficient and so their milk production, in terms of quantity and quality, does not change over several years. As in other countries the main problems with milk production are caused by very low supplementary feeding for the cows mainly due to the high cost of these products.

In 1977, rules were introduced in Chile to classify the milk according to quality characteristics at dairy factories.

The classification systems include hygiene tests such as methylene blue reduction time and somatic cell count. Checks for extraneous water by cryoscope and density measurement are made. While there is no obligation to pay for quality, in general the dairy factories give an additional payment for better quality milk to encourage the dairy farmers.

The price paid to the farmer is normally based on the following components:-

  1. a basic price for each 3 per cent of fat per litre of milk received;

  2. additional payment for fat as a monthly average.

  3. quality level, based on the supply meeting the A, B or C grade requirements of the official classification;

  4. seasonal adjustment;

  5. cost of provision of cooling equipment.

Small dairy farmers remain under difficult economic conditions and several have set up small dairy processing units because in this way they could obtain better prices for their milk without improving the quality of their supply.

Traditional dairy products are normally made with raw milk which gives a poor quality end-product particularly in relation to its microbiological characteristics.

Fortunately, the important diseases such as tuberculosis and brucellosis have been eliminated but other pathogens are normally present in the end-products.

Milk collection centres have been established through a technical project financed by the National Development Corporation (CORFO) and carried out by the Milk Technology Centre (CTL) in conjunction with the dairy factories which is helping to improve milk quality.

BRAZIL. This country has the largest production of milk in Latin America. In 1986 the production amounted to 11,000 million litres. Milk production areas are concentrated in south-east regions (43 per cent), the south region (30 per cent), central-west region (17 per cent) and north-east (10 per cent).

North-east and central-west region farms are least efficient and have low technological development. The south-east region has the biggest variety of technological development, from low to high technology applications. More than half of the milk produced in this region (43 per cent of the total milk produced in Brazil) comes from small farms (less than 100 litres per day). The south region has the best technological level of the country with the highest annual average yield of 1,300 litres per cow. This compares with the national annual average of about 700 litres per cow.

Zebu and buffalo are the main milk producing animals in the north; the central-west region has Dutch (Holland), Swiss, Jersey and Guernsey breeds of cow. The south-east region has european breeds either pure or crossed with the Zebu, while the south region has Dutch (Holland), Jersey, Guernsey and Hereford.

In 1980 only 59 per cent of the milk produced was delivered to the dairy factories, the remaining 41 per cent being used at the farm for calf rearing, human consumption at the farm or direct sale to the consumer and traditional dairy product processing. Regulations exist in respect of milk production and milk quality and define the requirements for dairy buildings, their location and hygienic conditions.

A project on traditional cheese made in small dairy processing units in Minas Gerais province indicated that many of the small farmers had no effective sanitary control of milk production and a high incidence of brucellosis in the cows in small farms.


BOLIVIA. All milk production areas are located in tropical regions. The dairy farms are small; in the Altiplano area around 94 per cent of the farms have less than 10 cows, 5 per cent have between 10 and 30 cows and 1 per cent have more than 30 cows.

The small dairy farmers live in very difficult conditions - subsistence agriculture, no technical inputs, no financial help or credit.

There is no veterinary control of the cows and the feeding is frequently unsuitable for best milk production. There is a high incidence of tuberculosis and brucellosis in the cows and the milk is generally of poor quality.

The Dairy Development Plan, initialised in 1971 and bringing together the Bolivian Development Corporation, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and dairy factories, has brought about several improvements in the dairy sector including the establishment of five dairy factories in the main dairy zones.

Further improvements in milk production and processing are envisaged as the result of two initiatives:

(a) the decision of the Supreme Legislation No 20474 of 12th September 1984 by which the Bolivian Planning and Coordination Ministry should be in charge of planning the increased scale and efficiency of dairy processing, and (b) a current dairy development project by the Bolivian Government, the United Nations and the Royal Government of Denmark to obtain special credits on equipment for dairy farms and factories.

PERU. There are three main dairy production areas:- the Sierra where most of the dairy farms are located; the Coastal area; and the jungle. Two thirds of farms have from 1 to 5 cows and with the farms which have from 6 to 20 cows the small producer sector makes up 96.8 per cent of the milk-producing farms.

The main problems facing the small farmer is the low volume of milk produced by his animals and milk quality.

A special commission has been formed by representatives of associations of milk producers, processors and the public agricultural sector to determine the basis for obtaining integral organisation of the small dairy farming sub-sector to develop the agricultural activity.

PARAGUAY. The main milk supply areas are Asuncion zone, Mennonitas of Chaco and Pto. Stroessner.

The small farmer with 1 to 2 cows makes up 81 per cent of the milk production units in Asuncion zone which accounted for 14.5 per cent of the national supply of 190 million litres in 1986.

Problems exist in relation to animal health. Vaccination against foot and mouth disease is compulsory but several important diseases such as Tuberculosis and Brucellosis have no compulsory veterinary control.

The problems of the small-scale dairy farmer in Paraguay are similar to those of other southcone countries of Latin America.


Veterinary health services are provided to cattle stations or governmental milk production centres to ensure that the dairy herd is free from any infectious disease which could be transmitted to humans through milk or its products. Suspect animals are isolated for treatment and their milk is destroyed.

Staff of cattle stations or government centres for milk production follow strict and detailed technical and hygienic procedures for milk production. Milk is usually collected by lorries from the cattle stations or centres for milk production once a day. Twice daily collection may be arranged in hot weather.

A few private sector milk producers are adopting the milk production procedures of the cattle stations and are using milking parlours or bucket milking machines and they are very aware of the need for producing milk of high quality.

The majority of private sector farmers carry out the milking process in primitive conditions using hand milking. They do not pay attention to the quality of the milk produced, but due to the high demand for milk and its products in the regions, they can sell a product of inferior quality. The private sector producers are often not aware of health problems until it is too late to treat the animals.

In the case of sheep and goats, which are very important components of the dairy industry of Syria, the milking process is done by the farmers themselves in very primitive conditions. Hand milking is normal.

Nomadic flocks in the steppe and the adjacent are subject to periodical vaccination programmes against contagious or endemic disease. Veterinary centres of the Ministry of Agriculture distributed in the regions where the animals are located are responsible for the vaccination programmes.

Many mobile veterinary units operate in the Syrian steppe to treat any health case which may be difficult for the breeder to diagnose or to treat.

6. ASIA.


Most of the milk in India and the neighbouring countries is produced in the villages by farmers with small land holdings and also by landless agricultural labourers. Although an increasing portion of the milk produced is collected by the cooperatives and other organised dairies, a significant portion of the milk is still being converted into traditional dairy products due to lack of refrigeration and transportation facilities.

Conditions under which milk is produced in the villages are far from satisfactory, mainly because of the economic backwardness of the producers. The milk animals are housed in a part of the living space of the family or in small closed or open yards adjacent to the family house. Flooring is usually a plaster of mud. The cows are rarely washed before milking. Buffaloes generally wallow in ponds, especially in the hot summer months.

Milking is done by hand, usually after suckling by the calf. Except in a few modern large farms, milking machines are not used. Because of the distances between the producing and consuming points, milk is unavoidably held at ambient temperatures for a significantly long time leading to high microbial growth. The high ambient temperatures in the region for the major part of the year support rapid microbial growth.

The predominant types of microflora in milk received in dairies are coliforms, micrococci, lactic streptococci, spore-forming aerobes and corynebacteria, the majority of these being contaminants from milk utensils. There is also a high incidence of thermoduric bacteria.

An indication of the bacteriological condition of milks in India is given by Aneja (1989) below who concluded that the bacterial counts of raw milk are generally high.

Table 14. The bacterial counts of village milks in India
SeasonStageTotal Count/ml ('000)
WinterAt milking29
 At dispatch (bulked supplies)97
 Market place438
SummerAt milking78
 At dispatch (bulked supplies)529
 Market place3,440

In a further reference to milk quality the total count and thermoduric counts of raw milk are given by Aneja.

Table 15. Microbial quality of raw milk received by two dairies in India.
 Weighing tankDump tankStorage tank
Dairy A   
Total count/ml13 million18 million9 million
Thermoduric count/ml14,000120,000150,000
Dairy B   
Total count/ml21 million19 million25 million
Thermoduric count/ml2,2004,2005,000

These results illustrate that while the total count of the raw milks are similar, the numbers of thermoduric bacteria in the milks are very different.

Aneja (1989) comments that most milk in India and the neighbouring countries is boiled immediately after milking and usually served piping hot for direct consumption. Consuming hot sugared milk before going to bed is a regular practice particularly in the north-west part of the region.


In the Himalayan area, particularly in Nepal and Bhutan, milking of the milk-producing animals such as yak/chauri, cow or buffalo is done by hand. At the time of milking, the hands of the milker as well as the udder of the animal or the milking utensils are seldom properly washed.

In the mountainous regions in yak herds, washing of hands and milking pails is not done because of the cold climate. There is no filtration of the milk. The milking pails which are made of wood, known as lazum are not washed properly. In most places the fermentation of milk is done in the same container as is used for milking.

Farmers lack practical knowledge of proper milk hygiene measures. The problems are more serious in the mountainous regions in the yak herds.

Similarly, very few farmers in the areas of the country where cows and buffalo are the milk animals have adequate knowledge of hygienic milk production.

In the case of liquid milk retailing the malpractice of adulterating milk by adding water is extensive but in the mountainous regions this does often occur (Nembang, 1989).

In the mountainous regions of Nepal and Bhutan, the yak/chauri herds are kept in the open fields all year round. They are milked under all kinds of weather and contamination of the milk is practically inevitable especially when the animals are dripping wet during the period of the monsoon.

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