From Farm-To-Table

From Farm To Table: The Journey of Milk in India

The stellar role of Operation Flood since its launch played an integral part in making India the largest producer of milk globally, with a remarkable contribution of 23% to global milk production. Post-independence, India’s dairy sector had a self-reliant journey and received great impetus for the last eight years under our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Dairy farming infrastructure grew through the National Dairy Plan facilitated by the Government of India to boost the rural Indian economy. 

The farm-to-table journey of dairy products in India is an array of complex yet fascinating processes. Numerous steps are involved in getting fresh and high-quality dairy products to our tables. Let us learn about it all and how it has emerged as one of the crucial pillars of our economy over the decades. 

Indian Dairy Industry: Farming to Delivery

Dairy Farming

Raising livestock that can produce enough milk for human consumption is the first step in the production of dairy products. These cattle are housed in barns and provided premium feed so they can make premium milk. The cattle are raised in hygienic setups so that they remain disease-free and milk collection can be conducted in a systematic manner.

Milk Collection

Once milk is produced, the crucial step of milk collection comes into play. Milk is collected from the cattle at collection centres; after this, milk is transported to processing centres. Milk should be processed within four hours of milking. The location of the milk collection centre depends on various factors like the number of milk-producing farms in the area and the total volume of milk produced by them, the distance of the collection centre from the processing facility, whether collected milk will be transported once or more than once, etc. An ideal collection centre should have a reliable supply of clean water, be accessible via roads, have good drainage, have an uninterrupted electricity supply, should not be dusty and most importantly, be easy to expand. 

Hygienic Milk Collection

The quality and shelf life of dairy products depends on the maintenance of hygiene at all stages of milk collection and processing. The containers used for milk collection typically have a large aperture so that the container is simple to clean, which is essential to maintain hygiene. If the process of milking is done by machinery, then it is best to avoid aeration. The milk should always be kept covered. It should be cooled below 4 degrees Celsius as soon as possible.

Cleaning and Disinfection of Milk

Though both cleaning and disinfection might come across as similar terms, cleaning is a process in which any dirt or residue in the milk is removed, while disinfection kills any germs present in the milk. The collecting equipment should be disinfected with disinfecting solutions like hypochlorite or simply sterilised with boiling water.

Milk Preservation

Milk should be cooled below 4 degrees Celsius as soon as it is collected. There are various cooling equipment used to maintain this low temperature. Traditional cooling methods include keeping the milk in the shade and not directly under the sun, keeping the milk in a well-ventilated space, putting the milk in a cold-water bath, etc. Conventional refrigerators are used to store small quantities of milk. There are surface coolers, evaporative charcoal-lined coolers, in-can rotary coolers, bulk milk cooling tanks, etc., used for bulk quantities of milk on an industrial scale.

Lactoperoxidase System Of Milk Preservation

Lactoperoxidase is an enzyme that naturally exists in milk and slows the growth of spoiling bacteria. Provided the initial hygiene quality of milk is reasonably good, lactoperoxidase can stop milk from spoiling at even 30 degrees Celsius for almost 7-8 hours. This process is used when the processing facility is far from the collection centre, or the cooling facility is not available. 

Transportation of Milk

Once collected, milk should be transferred to processing plants. There are numerous dairy farmers spread all over the country who usually maintain one to three milch animals. This makes the task of milk collection and transportation complicated. Proper road access from collecting centres to the processing plants is crucial. Milk is transported through cans when the volume dealt with is ideally low, and when the quantity is almost equal to 2,000 to 10,000, it is transported through tankers. Whichever equipment is used to transport should be sterilized properly. Tankers and wagons that are used for transporting milk should be sufficiently insulated to not permit the rise of temperature more than 1-1.5 degrees Celsius in a journey of up to 12 hours. Solid CO2 can be used for insulating purposes.

Milk Processing

Processing of milk involves converting milk into other milk products like pasteurized liquid milk, yoghurt, butter, ghee, cheese, and so on. Processing of milk to make other dairy products increases its shelf life. As a result, they can be transported to distant marketplaces and sold at a higher price. Milk processing itself is an allied industry that creates employment opportunities while ensuring the availability of more food varieties, quality, hygiene, and safety. 

While deciding on the site for milk processing, the same factors as the collection centre should be considered. A lot of times, the location of the collection centre and processing centre can be the same. 

It is very important to maintain hygiene in the processing plant. Equipment used for milk processing should be washed diligently. The one used for butter and cheese should be cleaned at least once a week. 

Supply Chain

In India, an estimated 48% of milk produced is consumed at the producer level, and the remaining 52% is available for sale in urban areas. Out of this, 40 % of milk is dealt with by the Dairy Cooperatives and Private diaries. The remaining 60% is distributed through the unorganized dairy sector. Hence, there are many schemes to maintain the market supply chain and distribution in the dairy sector. 

In India, more than 70% of the population lives in villages, and their main occupation is agriculture. The crops are grown in rotation, and it generally takes time. There are months in between when these farmers do not generally have an income coming from practicing agriculture. Hence, dairy farming is a secondary source of livelihood for them. Both agriculture and animal husbandry share a symbiotic relationship. Mostly, the agriculture waste product comes in handy as the fodder and the animals can easily provide manure that can be used as organic fertilizers in farming. The term ‘dairy supply chain’ is essentially managing the supply of milk from farms, processing it as required, and shipping it to the end customers.

Challenges faced by the dairy sector in India

The dairy sector in India faces numerous practical challenges. These problems are listed below:

  • There are a number of incompetent animals that compete with the far more lucrative dairy animals for fodder. Industrial growth is leading to the loss of fodder cover, which leads to a shortage of fodder. The cattle also deal with mineral deficiency disorders that lead to poor milk production. 
  • A lot of cattle owners neglect the hygiene conditions, which leads to the milk losing its purity and quality. A lot of cattle owners also leave them vulnerable to harsh weather conditions. 
  • Facilities for veterinary treatment are very highly scattered throughout the remote areas. The animals, hence, receive insufficient health care. Regular immunization and deworming of cattle are not done, and hence, a lot of cow illnesses are observed. 
  • There is a proper lack of education and training amongst the rural population regarding dairy farming. 

The Dairy-Tech Industry

The dairy industry in India is still a fragmented industry, with a huge number of farmers in the rural regions forming cooperatives rather than big firms. So, for the dairy industry to overcome all its hurdles, a tech revolution is necessary. Milking Robots, Automated Systems, and Cloud Technology are all coming into use in the current scenario. 

While milking robots are facilitating safer and faster milk collection, cloud technology is supporting growth in productivity by making real-time data accessible to every stakeholder of the supply chain for faster decision-making. Companies are generating procurement insights, monitoring livestock and managing the entire supply chain with the help of cloud technology. Automation, on the other hand, is streamlining all the processes and minimising the chances of human errors, thereby improving efficiency. 

The Indian dairy industry is at its inflexion point where it really can broaden its opportunities and have an influence around the world. The dairy business may play a critical role in democratising India’s entrepreneurial landscape and bringing rural communities into the mainstream as we observe a fundamentally changed global paradigm.

Role of Prompt Dairy Tech in This Transporformative Journey

Prompt Dairy Tech plays a crucial role in transforming the Indian dairy industry to reach new milestones. It is revolutionising the lives involved in the dairy supply chain. It is creating products that cater to the needs and futuristic expectations of the customers. Prompt’s “The pursuit of purity” has given India the “Automatic Milk Collection System” to help digitalise the supply chain. There have been many more innovative contributions throughout its journey from 1995 to 2023. With its constantly expanding product portfolio, which is backed by a strong Research and development wing, Prompt will set a new benchmark in the dairy tech sector of India.


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