There is a significantly higher demand for powdered milk over the fresh milk in Sri Lanka. In 2014, the government imported 71,000 metric tons of milk and milk foods (except infant milk foods) spending around 44 billion rupees while in 2018, 105,000 metric tons of milk and milk products excluding infant milk food were imported spending around 54 billion rupees (5). In order to increase the consumer demand for fresh milk and to popularize it as healthy and a nutritious beverage it is important to identify the factors that lead them to select milk powder over fresh milk. Results of the survey confirmed that there is a strong preference for powdered milk (86%) over fresh milk (8%). Age, education, and household size did not show an association with powdered milk preference. Gender-dependent difference was observed in the surveyed group, with females showing a significant higher preference for powdered milk. Gender-dependency of food choices are reported in several studied conducted in other countries, and food selection and preparation were identified as mainly in the domain of women (13, 14). This indicates that if the fresh milk consumption is to be increased in Sri Lanka, females would be a priority target group to be addressed in marketing programs. When considering the reasons for the preference of powdered milk both male and female groups gave similar reasons. Availability was reported as the main reason for powdered milk preference. Therefore, to make fresh milk more popular there should be government or private sector sponsored initiative to improve access for consumers. Taste was reported as the main reason for fresh milk preference. Quality and hygiene were the fourth reason for fresh milk preference. This indicates that conditions that maintain the flavor and hygienic quality of fresh milk are important for promoting the fresh milk market. For not drinking any type of milk, health issues were the main reported reason, and diabetes, high cholesterol, stomach problems, nausea, and increased phlegm after drinking milk and concerns on weight gain were the given reasons.
Standards for dairy products were established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) which was collaboratively formed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop food standards, guidelines and codes of practice (15). If the hygienic standards of dairy products in Sri Lanka are shown to be within recognized safety limits, that could play an important role in gaining consumer trust. Using the second survey, the hygienic practices in small and medium scale dairy farms were evaluated. All surveyed farmers used manual milking, which may be due to the smaller herd size, simplicity, higher expenses related with the machine milking process (equipment and the power) and unfamiliarity. All of the farmers washed their hands before milking, and the majority used soap and regular or warm water. All the farmers washed the teats before milking and majority used regular water or warm water; 22% used a soap or detergent to wash the teats. None of the surveyed farmers performed pre-milking teat dipping and only 9% did post-milking teat dipping. Maintaining proper pre-milking hygiene routines is essential to reduce the udder bacterial contamination from the environment and infected animals; and as well as to reduce the transmission of pathogens to humans via milk. Therefore, it is recommended to wash the hands with detergent, wash the udder and dry the teats with a clean cloth and use teat dipping methods such as Iodine, Chlorhexidine prior milking. Gleeson et al., discussed the importance of use of disinfectant products for teat preparation as they identified a significant reduction in the staphylococcal and streptococcal counts on teats after teat preparation with chlorhexidine teat foam, disinfectant wipes, and chlorine compared to washing and drying of teats or no preparation at all (16). It was also observed in this study that washing teats with warm water reduced the risk for mastitis when compared to washing with regular water. Farmers prepare warm water by boiling the water and then letting the temperature reaches down to a level that would not scald the udder skin. Boiling is the oldest and cheapest method of disinfecting water and properly boiled water stored in clean utensils would have very low doses of water borne microbes. Studies have also shown that use of warm water in teat washing is more comfortable to the animal and increases the milk let-down reflex (17).
Coliforms are commonly associated with manure contamination of udders and teats, and the proposed cut off of coliform count for good quality milk is defined as ≤ 50 colony-forming units per milliliter (CFU/mL) (18, 19). The majority (82%) of the bulk tank milk samples analyzed in the current study had coliform values that were higher than the cut-off limit and indicated poor milk hygiene. The main reasons for higher coliform counts include soil contaminated udders or dirty equipment. Even though most health risks from coliforms will be removed by pasteurization, drinking raw milk or a pasteurization failure could lead to conditions such as hemorrhagic diarrhea (20). In this study, there was a more significant chance to have higher coliform counts in milk collected from individual cows when compared to milk sampled from the bulk tanks. This is possible when some milk samples are collected from cows that had soil and manure on their teats that is not thoroughly removed before milking. In the bulk tank these high individual numbers can be diluted when mixed with milk from several animals .
Whole milk can adhere strongly to the surface of the bulk tank and form milk biofilms, and if allowed to dry these films are difficult to clean and will be a source for bacterial growth. Therefore, proper cleaning of the bulk tank plays an important role in minimizing the bacterial counts in the raw milk. All the farmers surveyed in this study used manual cleaning of bulk tanks. Farmers used different practices of bulk tank cleaning, such as regular water, warm water and soap/detergent with regular/warm water. Interestingly, there was a small percentage of farmers that did not clean the bulk tank before or after milking. This study showed significantly low levels of coliform counts in bulk tank cleaned with warm water when compared to cleaning the bulk tank with regular water. Previous studies have shown that manual rinsing of bulk tank immediately with warm water that is around 100-1100F removes most of the residual milk on the tank surface especially with the fat residues in the milk biofilm not being soluble in regular water (10).
Cleanliness of the dairy shed floor shown to have a significant impact on the animal health, and the milk quality. Ito et al., indicated that cows spent approximately 11 hours/day lying although it is varied from as few as four hours to 19.5 hours per day (21). Therefore, soiled, unhygienic dairy shed floors can trigger bacterial contamination of the udder and the milk. Depending on the economic status, farmers maintain different types of floors on cow sheds, thus, practice various cleaning methods. According to this study most of the farmers that have dairy sheds with concrete floor cleaned the floor at least once per day with regular water. However, the concrete floors were broken and uneven in many dairy sheds observed in the current study. Dairy sheds with improper floors can allow accumulation of wastewater containing manure and urine. A previous study indicated that Escherichia coli; common bacteria found in the environment, and intestines of people and animals, can infect the udder when cows are lying on a muddy floor after milking (22). Furthermore, Gunawardana et al., identified an association of mastitis with an uneven floor containing cracks and crevices (23). Farms without proper flooring (grass, soil, wood) removed the manure but did not clean the floor with water.
Most farmers transported milk to the collecting centers without chilling. However, in many areas only morning milking was collected and farmers had problems in storage of evening milk. A proper milk collection system for both morning and evening milking would benefit the farmers and also improve the milk storage quality, flavor, and freshness of milk.