Evaluation of the microbial aspect of rural small-scale dairy farmers raw milk handling practices from production to utilisation.
Xulu, Nkosinathi Humphrey.
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Milk is an essential source of nutrients for human beings and animals and can provide benefits socially and economically for poor households. Food security, nutrition, livelihoods, resilience and poverty alleviation for poor households are some of the benefits that can be derived from milk production. Although it is an expensive source of energy and the best source of high-quality protein and micronutrients that are essential for normal development and good health for children especially under the age of five. Rural milk producers can benefit from consuming and selling surplus milk to their rural communities at large. However, due to its high-water activity and nutritional value, it serves as an excellent medium for the growth of several kinds of microorganisms under inappropriate conditions which decreases its value and potential in the market. One aim was to analyse a microbial aspect of rural small-scale dairy farmer’s milk handling process from production to utilisation. Also, to optimise and develop an ongoing feedback strategy and workshops to rural small-scale dairy farmers and extension officers and disseminate project information to optimise their rural small-scale farming dairy hygiene management. This study was conducted to assess, isolate and characterise the total bacterial load of raw milk, especially common microorganisms that contaminate raw milk. In addition, assess various chemical adulterants in raw milk produced by rural small-scale dairy farmers; investigate whether the milk handling and practices of rural small-scale dairy farmers affected milk quality. Lastly, to examine the milk handling practices used by rural small-scale dairy farmers from production to consumption in Kwa-Hlabisa villages, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. A total of 53 rural small-scale dairy farmers were interviewed, but only 23 rural small-scale dairy farmers who still had lactating cattle were sampled for milk collection. Samples collected for laboratory analysis were 68 milk samples and 48 swabs samples respectively. The laboratory analysis included the assessment of bacterial load, isolation, and identification of bacteria, as well as the assessment of various chemical adulterants from the samples collected. Total plate count, biochemical identification tests and tests for raw milk adulteration samples were conducted. The bacteria in raw milk were also isolated and identified using standard methods. Results showed that the majority of rural small-scale dairy farmers were males, managing their cattle in unclean environments and pursuing extensive grazing systems in the communal pasture area. The mean aerobic mesophilic bacterial counts (AMBC) of raw milk samples analysed were 6.06 log cfu/ml (teats) and 6.91 log cfu/ml (milking container). According to South African standards of raw milk quality, the AMBC have values above the upper limits set. During this study, frequent bacteria isolated from raw milk samples taken from different critical points include Enterobacter aerogenes, Enterobacter gergoviae, Klebsiella oxytoca, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas maltophilia, Pseudomonas mallei, Shigella dysentery, Shigella sonnei, Morganella morganii, Alkaligenes denitrificans, and Xanthomonas. Also, this study discovered adulterants like urea, hydrogen peroxide, alizarin, detergent, skimmed milk powder, sodium chloride, sugar, and glucose were detected in 34%, 32%, 29%, 29%, 15%, 12%, 6%, and 6% milk samples respectively. For formalin, starch and neutraliser adulteration, none of the milk samples was found positive. The study concluded that contamination resulted from incorrect handling practices, therefore, the optimisation of sanitary handling practices to reduce microbial contamination is crucial. An ongoing feedback strategy has been launched. Future work involves workshops with farmers to disseminate project information and improve hygiene management techniques. This will help increase rural and local producer market productivity and consumer confidence, reducing the need for imports. At the same time, this will increase nutritional needs for rural small-scale dairy farmers, villagers, and in turn, the industry will hopefully include these farmers as regular milk producers, thereby enhancing the sustainability of small-scale indigenous farmers.