Report: Colombia works to improve milk quality and productivity

While demand for dairy products in Colombia is high, quality and productivity aren’t where they could be. Currently, the country’s dairy industry is challenged by a number of factors, including Streptpcoccus agalactiae, their pasture system and hygiene. Colombia has plans to address those challenges though, as they recognise that good milk quality and high productivity are two elements required to make them competitive on the world milk market.

Milk quality challenges

In Colombian bulk tank milk samples, Streptpcoccus agalactiae has a prevalence of 42 percent. Streptpcoccus agalactiae is known to increase the SCC and bacterial counts in bulk milk dramatically. According to a 2014 study conducted by N.F. Ramirez et al, manual milking is still an important method of milking in some regions of the country, including in Antioquia where 32.2 percent of cows are affected by subclinical mastitis. The results of the study reveal the importance of strict hygiene practices to control contagious mastitis in manually milked herds. Pre-milking teat preparation, as well as post-milking teat disinfection, are the cornerstones of minimizing both clinical and sub-clinical mastitis.

Further challenging hygiene, though, is Colombia’s pasture system, especially since many cows are milked right in the pasture itself. Teat preparation is often done in the field using a diluted iodine post dip solution. Sometimes, though, teats are covered in mud, and disinfection is not effective unless pre-cleaning is carried out first.

In Colombia, milking is usually done at pasture.
In Colombia, milking is usually done at pasture.

Milking in the pasture also creates other challenges. For one, access to the udder is not as easy as it is in a milking parlor. Adverse weather conditions can make for muddy conditions that result in dirty udders. Milk transport from the field is also an issue. Often, milk is transported by truck or horse-drawn carriage in cans to the farm’s cooling tank, a process that increases the possibility of bacterial growth.

Another challenge that Colombian dairy farmers face is that of production levels. Although a dairy cow’s traditional and natural environment is in the pasture, it’s not always the most effective system for high milk production. Pasture quality depends on many factors, including: geographic location; environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity and precipitation; type of grass available; and grazing management.

The weather conditions can be challenging in Colombia. Rain and heavy precipitation often result in dirty udders and a muddy milking place.
The weather conditions can be challenging in Colombia. Rain and heavy precipitation often result in dirty udders and a muddy milking place.

Industry gets involved

As consumer demands increase in Colombia, processors and dairy cooperatives look for better quality milk, and they’re willing to reward producers who meet those demands. Alpina, for instance, one of Colombia’s main dairy processors, has a bonus system for raw milk based on the bulk somatic cell count. The farmer receives 20 pesos per liter of milk when the BSCC is between 200 and 300,000/mL. If the BSCC is below 200,000/mL, the farmer receives 30 pesos.

Alpina isn’t the only organization helping farmers to improve milk quality. Colanta, the biggest dairy cooperative in the country no longer accepts milk with a BSCC above 900,000/mL. It does, however, employ a large team of technicians to educate farmers and help to improve dairy management.

In conclusion

Currently , Colombia is the fourth largest producer of milk in Latin America after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. The sector grows each year, and the dairy business is becoming more and more professional with a focus on meeting consumer demands. In order to secure a position in the global milk market, though, Columbia must continue to move towards more professional management, focusing on improving quality and increasing productivity.

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