Mainland milk problems start with quality of feed and breed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 April, 2011, 12:00am


I note that the authorities on the mainland continue to struggle with the problem of milk quality.

Following the melamine scandal we now have the addition of hydrolysed leather to milk to boost its protein content.

Moreover, the authorities are closing down 45 per cent of the mainland's dairy firms.

The problem with the approach of the authorities is that they are targeting the wrong part of the milk production and processing system.

Clearly farmers are finding it very difficult to get their cows to produce enough protein in the milk to meet the standards required. Dairy factories can only accept what is produced.

The major reason for this situation can be found in the breed of cow being used and the feeding of those cows.

The major breed of cow is the Holstein or Friesian, the very big black and white cows.

These cows can produce prodigious quantities of milk but if the cows are not well fed the protein (and fat) levels tend to go down and can easily drop below legislated standard percentage levels.

Consequently, farmers must pay close attention to the nutrition of the cows; they must be well fed with the right amount of energy in the form of grain as well as with protein supplements.

Alternately, they can be grazed on good quality pasture.

Another possible solution for the farmer is to have a herd of mixed breeds of dairy cows.

Dairy cow breeds such as Jersey and Guernsey almost always produce milk with relatively high protein and fat levels but they do not produce very great volumes of milk.

Introducing a few of these kinds of cows would help raise the protein (and fat) levels in the milk so the farmer's herd milk would reach the levels required by law.

However, in the long run cows must be well fed. Further, infections of the udders, known as mastitis, can also be a further cause of low protein in milk.

Management of mastitis in dairy herds should be a high priority for farmers.

Mainland authorities should consider establishing dairy farm advisers to give sound advice to farmers as to how to feed and manage dairy animals.

Dairy farming is a highly skilled occupation and it requires a high degree of knowledge to be successful.

Desmond K. O'Toole, adjunct professor, department of biology and chemistry, City University of Hong Kong