Glass of Cow, Goat, Sheep and Camel Milk

In Africa drinking cow, goat, sheep, and camel milk are usually consumed raw or unpasteurized. 

Milk and fermented products are important nutrient-dense foods having vital sources of proteins in the diets of African people. 

The practice of milk fermentation in every African region shows similar types of naturally fermented milk products that are regularly prepared by different ethnic groups of people.

Drinking Cow, Goat, Sheep and Camel Fermented Milk in Africa

Cows and camels, goats and sheep contribute to a rich and diverse dairy industry to create traditional fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and drinkable sour milk.

Milking a goat
Milking a goat

Depending on the breed, a cow’s (cattle) milk fat makeups 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 milkfat and 4-6 percent protein and is higher in calcium than goat and cow milk. Most sheep milk is made into cheese.

In Africa, cow, goat, sheep and camel 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.

Fermented milk plays an important role in Africa including making the make tastier and extending the shelf life. 

In South Africa, traditional fermented milk amasi, sethemi, mafi, and madila are favorite recipes. 

To make amasi fermented milk simply leave raw milk to naturally ferment at room temperature in a clay pot until thick curds form this may take 2–3 days.

Among dairy products, yogurt is one of the most consumed and most popular foodstuffs in Africa. 

Nunu is a fermented yogurt-like milk product consumed in West Africa. Nunu can be produced from either pasteurized or unpasteurized cow's milk naturally fermented at room temperature for 2 days. 

In Algeria, fermented cow milk is known as raib is a traditional yogurt made by the same process like South Africa’s amasi, West African Nunn and ESwatini emasi.

A long history of fermented food production of cattle, sheep, goats and camels milk in Africa, as well as its climate diversity, make the manufacturing of a wide range of dairy products possible. 

Fermented foods are linked to various health benefits, including improved digestion and immunity.

Milking Awassi Sheep the traditional way
Milking Awassi Sheep the traditional way

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.

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.

Fermentation reduces the lactose concentration to lactic acid, making dairy produce more digestible to lactose-intolerant people. 

Maziwa lala or Mala as it is popularly known in Kenya is sour milk or cultured milk. People who cannot drink fresh milk, a condition known as lactose intolerance, easily digest Maziwa lala milk.

Maziwa lala milk is not yogurt but a drinkable cultured fermented milk product. 

Cultured milk can be a precursor for related products such as white cheese and cottage cheese. The importance of dairy foods in the African diet is essential. 

Dairy foods, especially fermented dairy foods are one of the most nutritionally dense foods, being significant sources of several nutrients.

In certain areas of Kenya, the Horn of Africa and North Africa, sheep are an important source of meat and milk.

Calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus, protein, magnesium, vitamin B12, niacin equivalents, vitamin B6 are important components of dairy. 

Milk and milk products are also one of the main sources of dietary calcium which is highly important both in bone formation and the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.

The practice of milk fermentation in every African region shows similar types of naturally fermented milk products that are regularly prepared by different ethnic groups of people. Under unrefrigerated storage, milk becomes sour in a matter of hours after milking.

This is due to the action of natural lactic acid bacteria on the milk sugar, turning it to lactic acid that causes the milk protein to thicken. Traditionally, most communities in Africa have used this natural fermentation to produce a variety of fermented kinds of milk for centuries.

In certain areas of Kenya, 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 the west and is the vast desert region of Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea, not including Egypt (Maghreb does include Libya).

Did you know? 

Oats are the most important animal feed in the Maghreb region to cattle. 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.

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