Nima | Gelephu

To ensure quality milk collection and enhance management practices, two chiller machines will be installed at Pelrithang and Zomlingthang in Gelephu gewog, Sarpang.

The work to install the chiller machines will begin early next year after the construction of an ice cream plant in the gewog is completed in February 2022.

Gelephu Gup Ugyen Wangchuk said that the gewog is preparing to set up an ice cream plant in lower Pelrithang, Gelephu.

“There were people who used to add water to the milk in the past. Now we have on-the-spot testing to ensure that quality milk reaches the collection point. We reduce the payment if the milk has a higher water content,” he said.

The gup said that the ice cream plant would also be able to take in surplus milk from nearby gewogs in the future. “We were struggling to sell milk. Livestock farming was not profitable without a secure market. The ice cream plant will benefit the farmers,” Ugyen Wangchuk said.

The gewog encouraged the group, Gelephu Omdetshen, which is the largest milk producer in the gewog, to ensure quality of milk to a certain standard as they prepare to supply milk to the plant. The group was established by 25 farmers in 2007 and currently has 133.

The chairperson of the group, Tenzin Norbu said that only 60 percent of milk collected is sold every day. “The remaining 40 percent, close to 300 litres, we have to make into byproducts and sell,” he said.

He added that the ice cream plant will help the group sell surplus milk on time.

“But we are not sure whether we’ll be able to maintain the quality of the milk. The fat percentage should be high. There is also no proper monitoring in place when the milk is collected. Quality might get compromised,” said Tenzin Norbu.

The chairperson said that the milk tests in the past could not determine the quality meant for the ice cream plant. “We might need training to prepare ourselves accordingly,” he said.

A microbial and composition quality test conducted in the gewog in 2019 when the gewog and dzongkhag were planning the ice cream plant showed poor results.

The screening for subclinical mastitis also showed significant mastitis prevalence in herds.

Supplying milk of poor quality for the production of dairy products will result in low quality products with a very short shelf life that would also pose a health risk, according to a report.

An official from the dzongkhag livestock sector said that farmers were encouraged to practice improved hygiene and sanitation while milking, and to avoid using plastic containers to store milk.

Dzongkhag livestock officer Dorji Wangchuk said milk contamination and the risk of milk spoiling were high when the sampling was done.

“The technical team recommended changes to the milking process and practising improved hygiene and sanitation. We have identified two places to set up chilling plants. This will help reduce the risk of contamination and spoilage,” he said.

He added that the livestock sector will be doing the milk quality assessment again, with support from the thromde veterinary laboratory, when the plant is fully set up.

The dzongkhag livestock sector supported the establishment of the ice cream plant, as the farmers have been finding it difficult to find a market, despite using the excess milk to produce cheese and butter.

The ice cream plant is expected to be ready by early next year. The construction of the structure cost Nu 7.63 million.