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Farms to concentrate the milk on the farm

Large dairy farms are looking to concentrate their milk on the farm as part of a new research project with scientists from Aarhus University. This is in order to save on transport costs and thus offer producers a better price for their milk.

Scientists from Aarhus University are cooperating with, amongst others, Arla Foods in a new research project where a milk concentrate is produced on-farm in order to save on transport costs and re-use the water from the milk.

Large Danish dairy cattle farms will in the future be helping the dairies concentrate the milk which is to be used for cheese or milk powder. This will result in fewer journeys with the dairy's milk tankers, less CO2 emission and less need for cooling of the milk, as well as a higher sales price for milk.

This is one of the thoughts behind a new research project involving scientists from Aarhus University together with, amongst others, Arla Foods and the Cattle Research Centre. Associate Professor Lars Wiking is the daily leader of the project at Aarhus University, which is entitled “New technology for sustainable concentration of milk on the farm” and has just received 4.1 million kroner from the Green Development and Demonstration programme under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.

- Increasing volumes of milk are utilised either for milk powder, milk-based ingredients or cheese. In connection with the production of both milk powder and cheese, the milk is often concentrated prior to further processing. Instead of carrying out the concentration at the dairy, this part of the process can advantageously be moved to an earlier stage of the production chain, and in doing so remove large amounts of water which can be recycled into the feed and for cleaning, explains Lars Wiking, outlining the basic idea of the project.

The project has the goal of developing a sustainable process for the production of a milk concentrate on the farm and ensuring that concentrates have a good shelf life, quality and suitability for further processing. In addition, the partners in the project are tasked with demonstrating the concept to the farmers and with calculating the economic, climatic and environmental costs of moving the concentration of milk to the dairy farms.

- There is a focus on optimisation of the new methods in terms of energy consumption and loss of milk components. The results can be used as a decision base for the introduction of the concept to the large dairy farms in Denmark, and thus the project is receiving much attention from dairy farmers and the Danish dairies, says Lars Wiking.

The concentration is primarily relevant for the largest dairy farms due to the investment involved in purchasing the equipment, but in pace with structural developments the number of farms with more than 500 cows is set to grow and these will be responsible for most of the Danish milk production. It is precisely the dairy farms with more than 500 cows that form the basis for calculations in the project.

- Initial calculations based upon 2012 numbers of farms with more than 500 cows show a total saving of 11.2 million kroner per year, a reduction in CO2 emissions of 1301 tonnes per year as well as a reduction of groundwater usage and waste-water production of 91,980 m3 each per year, explains Lars Wiking.

The project, which has a collective budget of 7.4 million kroner, runs until the end of 2015.

Further information: Associate professor Lars Wiking, Department of Food Science, telephone: +45 8715 7805, email: lars.wiking@agrsci.dk