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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Holy Cow! Drinking Milk in Africa

In Africa milk is usually consumed raw or unpasteurized. Milk and milk products are important nutrient-dense foods having vital sources of proteins in the diets of people with limited access to protein-based foods in Africa. Protein is essential for building and repairing the body. Goat and cow’s milk has about 3.5 percent protein, and sheep’s milk around 4-6 percent protein. There are 49 indigenous sheep breeds and six major breeds are used to produce milk in the Horn of Africa and North Africa.

Depending on the breed, a cow’s (cattle) milk fat make-ups about 3 to 4 percent of the solid content, and protein about 3-4 percent. Goat milk has about 3-4 percent protein, is easier to digest and has more fat and calcium than cow’s milk. Sheep’s milk has 5-7 percent milk fat and 4-6 percent protein and is higher in calcium than goat and cow milk. Most sheep milk is made into cheese. 
Milking a goat photo by bert mb

In Africa, milk is usually consumed raw or made into soured milk. Raw milk is milk that has not been heated to a particular temperature for a certain amount of time or unpasteurized milk. Soured milk is raw milk in which an acid such as lemon or vinegar is added and used in numerous cooked porridge recipes throughout Africa.


Milk production from goats is more suitable than from cows for small households and small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa due to the land needed for grazing animals. Dairy goats are less expensive to raise, are easily handled, eat less than cattle, produce the right amount of milk for a household therefore storage of perishable milk is not an issue, depending on the breeder and the breed male goats can begin breeding in 12-16 months from birth and females 16-18 months, and lastly goats produce more offspring.
Milking Awassi Sheep the traditional way
However, cows produce around 75 percent of the milk consumed in sub-Saharan Africa; milk from goats contributes around 13 percent and the remaining 12 percent by other animals such as sheep. Milk from sheep is important in the Horn of Africa and North Africa producing 7.5 percent and sub-Saharan Africa 7 percent. Goats have a higher milk yield than sheep and are the major source of milk and meat for many subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

In certain areas of the Horn of Africa and North Africa, sheep are an important source of meat and milk. Small farmers use the animals as a major source of meat and cash income raises most of Ethiopia’s estimated 71 million sheep and goats. About 75 percent of the total sheep flock is in the highlands, whereas lowland pastoralists maintain about 75 percent of the goatherd. There are 49 indigenous sheep breeds and six major breeds are used to produce milk. They are the Awasi, Nejdi, Barbary, Sicilio-Sarde and desert Sudanese. Sheep are raised for milk, meat, and money to be made from the sale of wool, hair and hide.


The cattle production industries in the Maghreb countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia produce significantly more cow’s milk compared to the rest of North Africa. Maghreb is from the Arabic word for west and is the vastly desert region of Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea not including Egypt (Maghreb does include Libya). Oats are the most important animal feed in the Maghreb region to cattle.

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