Changes in milk composition and processing properties during the spring flush period
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1051/dst/2009016
The period, known to UK farmers and processors as the "spring flush", when the cows' diet changes from dry feed to spring pasture, has long been established as a time of change in milk properties and processing characteristics. Although it is believed to be a time when problems in processing are most likely to occur (e.g. milk that does not form clots or forms weak gels during cheesemaking), there is little evidence in the literature of detailed changes in milk composition and their impact on product manufacture. In this study, a range of physicochemical properties were analysed in milk collected from five commercial dairy herds before, during and after the spring flush period of 2006. In particular, total and ionic calcium contents of milk were studied in relation to other parameters including rennet clotting, acid gel properties, heat coagulation, alcohol stability, micelle size and zeta potential. Total divalent cations were significantly reduced from 35.4 to 33.4 mmol.L-1 during the study, while ionic calcium was reduced from 1.48 to 1.40 mmol.L-1 over the same period. Many parameters varied significantly between the sample dates. However, there was no evidence to suggest that any of the milk samples would have been unsuitable for processing - e.g. there were no samples that did not form clots with chymosin within a reasonable time or formed especially weak rennet or acid gels. A number of statistically significant correlations were found within the data, including ionic calcium concentration and pH; rennet clotting time (RCT) and micelle diameter; and RCT and ethanol stability. Overall, while there were clear variations in milk composition and properties over this period, there was no evidence to support the view that serious processing problems are likely during the change from dry feed to spring pasture.