Nothing is quite as satisfying as a tall, cold glass of milk, but odd flavors can be off-putting to consumers.
Researchers at Virginia Tech have traced what could be one indicator of contamination when milk’s flavor profile turns sour — too much iron in cows’ water sources.
A collaborative research effort involving the departments of dairy science, food science and technology, biochemistry, and civil and environmental engineering discovered that iron in bovine water sources was causing oxidized flavors, degraded milk proteins, and general poor stability of milk products. High iron content also decreased the cow’s ability to efficiently process some types of nutrients, which decreases production levels and makes the animals susceptible to a host of other health issues including mastitis and other bacterial infections.
“We found that when iron was present in the water or we added iron, we got a flavor profile that was less than ideal,” said Susan Duncan, professor of food science and technology and one of the lead authors in the iron study.
“While producers may not see the effects of iron in their milk quality immediately, over time this could pose a problem for producers who might notice a decline in quality and sales for no apparent reason.”
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Virginia generates 1.7 billion pounds of milk per year.
Though the dairy industry in Virginia is small compared to other states, the commonwealth produces 207 million gallons of milk annually, worth about $481 million according to the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association.
However, hot, humid summers add challenges to milk production in the region. Reduced milk quality results in increased production costs for farmers while decreasing revenues and sustainability.
Christina Petersson-Wolfe, associate professor of dairy science and Extension specialist, wants to help improve the quality of the state’s milk.
Petersson-Wolfe, working with the Southeast Quality Milk Initiative, is helping dairy producers in the commonwealth and the region compete more effectively by lowering bacterial counts in milk, thus commanding better prices in the marketplace. Virginia Tech has partnered with the University of Tennessee, University of Kentucky, University of Georgia, and University of Florida to implement the $3 million multistate project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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Virginia’s dairy industry is valued at more than $480 million and is the state’s third most valuable agricultural commodity.
To serve this industry, Virginia Tech researchers and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents and specialists work in concert to provide the most current and relevant knowledge to producers around the state.
Now, they have a new state-of-the-art dairy facility where they can help the industry grow
This summer, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences completed construction of the $14 million Dairy Science Complex – Kentland Farm.
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