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Milk production practices, udder health and the impact on milk quality, safety and processability in Rwanda

Published 2017-10-23

This project is led by University of Rwanda in cooperation with SVA and SLU and granted by Feed the Future, University of Florida.

Rwanda Government initiatives such as "Girinka Munyarwanda" or "One cow per poor family" that distributes dairy cows has increased milk production for the last 8 years. The annual milk production in Rwanda has gone from 185,000 tonnes in 2007 to 445,000 tonnes in 2013 and the annual milk production is projected to reach 650,000 tonnes by 2017. However, there are limitations in achieving the vision of high quality milk production. These include the lack of service providers, lack of updated research at different level of milk chain. Such lack of research on dairy animal health and milk pre-and post-harvest best practices lead to significant qualitative and quantitative loss of milk which ultimately hampers efforts to fight malnutrition through government program such as one cup of milk per child and can occasionally lead to public health hazards when antimicrobial residues or zoonotic pathogen are present in milk destined for public consumption.

Research on practices in the milk chain is needed to provide knowledge on interventions that can be done and ultimately improve the milk quantity, quality and safety. In addition, knowledge is also needed for the establishment of goals for better quality and for evaluation of interventions. Such interventions could for example be preventive udder health, prudent use of antibiotics and withdrawal periods and optimal hygiene at milking and milk handling.

The objective of the current project is to develop best practices that enhance dairy cow's health and milk quality in the Rwandan dairy chain based on researched gaps from dairy cow udder health to milk collection centres. Elimination of risk factors that lead to bovine mastitis, accurate measurement of the diseases combined with behavioural changes of farmers will lead to quality milk production. In addition, elimination of milk contamination routes by zoonotic bacteria and presence of antimicrobial residues will render milk safer to thousands of milk consumers in Rwanda. Finally, quality and safer milk will render milk products from Rwanda competitive on local, regional and international markets