Good Tasting Milk

Rosebud Milk

There is an ART to sweet, fresh tasting milk.

Below are a few suggestions on what to do (or not to do) to acquire the best quality milk:

  • Avoid feeding anything that will taint the milk. This ranges from antibiotics to onions. Pennycress is a weed we have that is particularly gross (the milk will smell back coming out of the cow, it’s that potent!)
  • Cool milk within 2 hours to 40 degrees F, preferably in glass containers.
  • How often do you milk:
    • Once a day: Some people drop to once a day milking after a few months, if they only have a family cow and do not need much milk. The downside to that is high somatic cell count and higher risk of mastitis.
    • If share-milking: that would qualify as more similar to 2 or 3 time a day milking, but mastitis risk is still higher due to teats not closing between milkings.
    • Twice a day: Twice a day milking is the most common method. The cow should be milked at 12 hour intervals.
    • Three times a day: Increases milk production. Is very helpful to control udder health, especially on fresh cows that benefit from frequent milking. Most people find 3x overwhelming if done long-term.
  • Keep teats soft and healthy by using teat dips and creams. Cracks can encourage bacteria, plus an unhappy cow will not let down her milk.
  • Try not to buy a cow that kicks. Dirty feet easily contaminate equipment.
  • Test the milk regularly for somatic cell count and potential bad bacteria. If a problem is noted, treat it swiftly and as quickly as possible. Lingering problems will drastically effect milk production, not to mention quality of milk!
  • Avoid incomplete milk-out. Work to get all the milk and cream out of the udder at each milking (not every last drop, but at least the main flow until her udder feels empty). Buying a cow that milks out on her own easily and completely is a definite bonus.
  • Maintain the same routine. Cows like and expect the same things to happen every day.
  • Get the cow bred back on time. A yearly calving interval is healthy for the cow by maintaining a healthy weight (stale cows gain fat easily), allowing for a sufficient dry period (build up of minerals and nutrients; rest for the body and udder), and acting as a time to kill any persistent bacteria, if necessary, by dry treating.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Cows too thin will not give much butterfat in their milk, and the milk will overall be lower in quality than that of a cow in her prime. Thin cows also tend to be at risk for ketosis, which can produce acetone (fingernail polish smell) milk.
  • Milk in a sanitary, bright facility. Good lighting is necessary for general work and to detect problems. Sanitation is of the utmost importance for common sense reasons.
  • Supplement Vitamin E in the diet – 2000 IU daily
  • Maintain dry clean housing wherever the cow lives, including:
    • bedding where the cow lays
    • ground where she walks around and maybe lays out on nice days
    • where the cow stands to pastures


Other Resources:

bacteria milk cooling times
Judkins, Henry F. The Principles of Dairying. John Wiley and Sons: 1925.

Detecting and Correcting Off-flavors in Milk

Here is a link to a good discussion on troubleshooting why there’s an off flavor in milk:

3 thoughts on “Good Tasting Milk

  1. Pingback: How to Milk a Cow | Spirited Rose Homestead Dairy Farm

  2. FAQ: My milk is unusually foamy when I strain it. Should I be concerned?
    Here’s some information from Bernard W. Hammer (1946) Dairy Bacteriology. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 46-54.

    “The organisms of most importance in producing gas in dairy products include (1) certain non-spore-forming yeasts that ferment lactose, (2) the Escherichia-Aerobacter group, and (3) certain organisms of the genus Clostridium. Sanitation will be most important, to avoid growth of these bacteria. If they aren’t there, they won’t cause the foam. Make sure and read up on how dairy equipment should be cleaned and sanitized. Also important: cool the milk quickly to avoid growth of whatever is causing the foam.
    Yeasts can be a problem because “they interfere with the normal churning when cream is held for several days, as is done in home buttermaking.” Yeasts are acid tolerant, which is how they show up in products like sour cream and other milk products.
    “Without coagulation there is little tendency for the gas to be held and it readily escapes.” So basically, if you cool your milk quickly and just use it as straight milk, the yeast should not be a problem. The problem comes when you start to use the milk for products like butter or cream, where the gas cannot escape as well. Occasionally, I think this can be a problem in cheese as well.If it’s not yeast, it might be E. coli or A. aerogenes, and can be eliminated through sanitation measures at milking time. (Rarely, comes directly from cow. The book says primarily contamination causes it). These bacteria are less foamy and stinky than yeasts. If you shake the milk, it may foam up if you have enough of these bacteria. They also create “objectionable flavor” which is probably your biggest concern, along with more rapid deterioration of the quality of milk (doesn’t taste good as long). Clostridium bacteria are not of concern if you are keeping the milk raw, as they don’t survive over the good bacteria. Your only concern, then, is if you improperly pasteurize the milk, they can have room to replicate then.


  3. FAQ: What is causing that off flavor in milk? Is it the wild onions?

    Onions and garlic are notorious for off flavors. I have heard that if they eat them, the taste will be gone after a few hours. So, where you get your milk, say they milk at 7pm. You could talk to them about locking up the cows around 4pm, feeding them some hay, and letting it wash out of their system before milking time. Then let them outside again after morning milking.

    One experience I had with off flavors was in the spring, the cows eating a weed called Pennycress. Your milk tastes bad, even though it is fresh!


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