Author Topic: Late Lactation moisture management  (Read 1028 times)

Offline ArnaudForestier

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Late Lactation moisture management
« on: March 09, 2014, 08:02:40 AM »
In Peter Dixon's chapter in Paul Kindstedt's American Farmstead Cheese, he provides a table that breaks the lactation season down to early, mid and late lactation.  He characterizes late lactation as high milk solids, so therefore a lower moisture content - and to even out the moisture content across the lactation periods, he recommends, for late lactation, going with larger cut size, shorter cooking period, and a slightly lower cook temp (presumably to speed up acid production, to match the shorter cooking period).

Later in the same chapter, Peter characterizes late lactation as problematic - a very soft curd, poor whey drainage, slow acidification - all leading to higher-than-normal moisture content on a given cheese.  Presumably, one would want to do things to drive out this excess moisture, if making the same cheese across seasons, or simply make a different cheese, better suited to the period. 

These two paragraph's approaches seem to me, anyway, to be in contradiction.  Have I missed something or otherwise gotten something wrong? Can someone advise - thoughts?

« Last Edit: March 09, 2014, 08:14:26 AM by ArnaudForestier »
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Offline craftedcurd

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2016, 09:02:39 AM »
Hi Paul,

This post is a little dated, however, I stumbled across it this morning and figured I'd reply.

I went back and reread this section of the book, and also some other literature I have on hand from some training I've done with Peter. At first glance, it did seem a little contradictory. However, after a second look, it makes sense. Where Peter is initially talking about late lactation milk having high solids, this is in reference to late lactation milk from a seasonal dairying operation. In some of his other writings, he includes several graphs that clearly illustrate the increase in milk solids later in lactation in seasonal milking operations. This is partially tied to the diet of the animal, including decrease in water consumption, change in moisture content of the feed (especially if hay is being fed), as well as the stage of lactation of the animal. One thing to note, is that on page 211-212, he notes that this is in reference to milk that is "of good quality and not altered by late-lactation effects that would cause problems in making cheese". Here he even references the other section.

The section that discusses late lactation milk as being problematic, it doesn't state that all late lactation milk has this problem. In fact, he says it's often tied to seasonal grazing operations, when feed available in pasture becomes sparse late in the season. So poor quality nutrition is a component in creating poor quality, late lactation milk. Furthermore, he states that if a good-quality diet and good udder health are maintained, the cheese making season can go for a full lactation. If that's the case, and the noted seasonal adjustments are made as you outlined in your post, late lactation milk can actually be beneficial for the cheese maker due to higher solids and increased yield.

How do you know if your milk is problematic in late lactation? I'd say as a cheese maker, you've got two tools to work with. First of all, you can test the milk. Problematic late lactation milk has a high pH and high SCC. For cow's this means >6.8pH and >500,000 SCC. Second of all, and this is probably your first indication, would be how the milk performs in the make process. Slow starter activity, long curdling times & soft curd formation, and poor whey drainage would all be indicative.

Hopefully that helps... Obviously, a little bit late! That said, this time of year it could be a relevant topic for lots of people, depending on location. I know it's something I'm keeping an eye out for at the creamery with each of my makes.

Happy New Year!

Offline scasnerkay

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2016, 06:30:23 PM »
Thank you for bringing this topic back up. Sadly, Paul has stopped making cheese, and most likely is no longer checking the forum.
I am fortunate to be able to get the milk from a single Jersey cow at a local farm, when I do the milking. She calved about 16 months ago, and has not yet started another pregnancy. She gives about 2 gallons on her once a day milking. Since we live in California with no real grasses growing, her diet has been very consistent the whole time with alfafa hay and forage hay, with grain while milking. I have been able to use her milk for about the past year, and it is interesting to note the changes. At the beginning a washed curd (higher moisture) cheese would yield a bit over 1# per gallon of milk. A milled curd cheese would yield just under 1#. I was away for a couple of months this summer, then in late July (almost 11 mos post calving) I started back into making cheese, and got a big surprise! Her milk has changed, and the yields have been huge! Most of the cheeses have still been aging, but I have opened a couple and have been very pleased at the flavors. A Caerphilly from 3 gallons yielded just over 3.5#. Opened yesterday at 10 weeks to rave reviews. A Jarlsberg (washed curd) made from 3.75 gal, yielded a 5.5# wheel, developed lovely eyes, and was fantastic and creamy when opened at 3 months.
I do test pH at the start of a make, and hers has been consistent at 6.65 to 6.7. She gets tested quarterly for mastitis by a vet, just recently having a test of 600,000 in one quarter. I wonder about the accuracy on that test because when I run the CMT she is fine on repeated days, and shows no sign of a problem. I had been drinking her milk prior to the test, and had made cheese prior to the vet test, so I continued to do both. It will be interesting to see if there is some change in the cheese from recent makes. And I look forward to the next vet test. I won't be sharing those cheeses unless I eat them without problem, but I have no way of knowing when she might have started having a problem!!
Susan

Offline OzzieCheese

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2016, 08:29:04 PM »
Just a quick question
Quote
I wonder about the accuracy on that test because when I run the CMT
CMT ? is that the Somatic Cell Count and if so, how does one do that without being a vet ?

-- Mal
Usually if one person asks a question then 10 are waiting for the answer - Please ask !

Offline Kern

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2016, 11:06:05 PM »
Interesting comments, Susan.  I get milk from Jersey cows living on a farm in Othello, WA.  I sourced this early last spring and all my raw milk cheeses have come from milk from these cows.  They are certified organic and grass fed and I suppose they are eating hay, alfalfa pellets and the like during the winter (but no silage).  Last spring I saw yields around a pound per gallon.  I've made 2 six gallon batch cheeses in the past 30 days.  The first was a Tomme that came in at a whopping 7.95# after brining (forgot to weigh it before brining).  The one made this past Friday was a Massdam (Leerdammer).  It used 5 gallons of whole raw milk and one gallon of non-fat skim milk from the same cows.  It came in at 7.21# before brining.

I thought that perhaps the Tomme was inadequately pressed even though after about two hours and 120 pounds of force on an eight inch mold, the pressing was producing no more liquid.  For grins I calculated the rough volume of the cheese and determined the specific gravity to be about 1.12 indicating that it was likely well pressed.  Still a bit alarmed I spoke with Kallijah Paraska, owner of The Cheese Connection  (http://stores.cheeseconnection.net/) here in Seattle.   Kallijah has a lot of commercial cheese making experience in Wisconsin.  She assured me that what I saw was not all that unusual for Jersey cows and attributed to the high nutrient value of hay and alfalfa pellets combined with the lower work cows need to do in the winter to eat.  The Othello farm produces milk all year so cows are constantly calving and, on average, the milk is at the same point in the lactation cycle regardless of the season.  This confirms to me that the differences in the milk come from diet and not from the point in the lactation cycle.

If you do the math the jump in yield is not especially significant insofar as the milk solids content goes:  Last spring I'd get about 6 pounds of cheese from 52 pounds of milk or a yield of about 11.5%.  The last two cheeses have average yields of 7.6 pounds from the same 52 pounds of milk or a yield of 14.6%.  This is a large increase in terms of cheese but in terms of milk it is an increase of only 1.6 pounds from 52 pounds of milk or a change of roughly 3% - not so big after all.

All this reminds me of a line from the old Joni Mitchell song, "I really don't know cows at all".  :P ;) 

Offline scasnerkay

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2016, 12:17:46 AM »
The California Mastitis Test (CMT) is a cow side test for somatic cell count. It can be done by anyone able to follow the directions! I think it has been well validated, and I have practiced it a few times now.

Having said that.... I was away from the cow for 10 days, and various others were milking, and I cannot know how well they emptied the udder. So today the CMT test was positive for mastitis. I performed the test both at the beginning of milking, and then at the end of the machine milking. The test at the end was more strongly positive from one quarter. When I got the milk home, I tested the pH at 6.85.  No cheese.... just sadness.
Susan

Offline craftedcurd

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2016, 07:48:56 AM »
Hello everybody!

Sorry for refreshing this thread and then disappearing... Is there a way to set up the forum so it alerts you by email whenever there's a response to a post? I'll have to check it out.

I'm sorry to hear Paul isn't making cheese anymore, but I'm glad others chimed in.

Scasnerkay (I assume, Susan, based on the reply?) Very interesting to see the results you're getting... Especially since the diet has held constant. That seems to confirm the effect that the point in the lactation cycle has on milk composition. As for mastitis and the CMT kit, since it doesn't give quantitative results, it's left a little bit up to interpretation. I think the more you use it - and compare to corresponding lab results - the better and more confident you'll be.

As for the high pH, something interesting to note is that the milk I use at the creamery I work with is consistently measuring >6.8. This change in pH occurred around the time they were switched over to alfalfa hay from their summer grazing (no grain is fed, it's 100% grass fed Jersey milk). This has concerned me, however, still making cheese and they seem to be coming out okay. We've sent it to the lab, and the results showed a SCC of <100,000. If you're getting high pH, I may still give the cheese make a go, just to see the results. Or, you could just exclude the quarter that's mastitic.

Another thing you can do, if you suspect mastitis from the CMT test, is to isolate that quarter/quarters of milk, store it in the fridge for several days, and taste it. If it is mastitic, it will usually develop off flavors.

Kern - Your results have been very similar to mine... It's amazing how the yield changes as the feed changes. As mentioned, the milk changed when the cows were switched to hay. The first thing I noticed was the change in color, from the yellowish creamy look over grazing milk to white. The next thing I noticed was the yield. We typically get 40 3ish lb wheels a make, but since the switch to hay this has jumped to 50. It's definitely a welcomed change!


Offline Kern

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2016, 10:39:40 AM »
craftedcurd, the Jersey cows that produce the raw milk I use never eat grain.  In the winter it's grass hay, alfalfa pellets/hay, or the like.  I have noted a pH rise in this milk also - from about 6.5 +/- to the 6.7 range.  This does not seem unusual to me with a change in diet. 

PS:  Keep visiting us here at the CheeseForum.  It looks like you have a lot to contribute.  ;)

Offline Mermaid

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2016, 02:19:56 PM »
Funny, I was just thinking about this issue while making cheese today. I milk 8-15 Jersey cows year round. Most of them that are currently lactating calved may-july 2015, so using late lact. milk - However we recently had a calf, and her momma is producing so much milk! Because there are so few of the cows, I wondered how the mix of 20 lbs. late lact. milk per cow PLUS 45-50 lbs fresh lact. cow milk mixed in would work. pH was 6.8 today, cows are on good hay. I am getting good cheese yields.
Not much to add here, just happy to read others' thoughts on a subject I was just thinking about today! :)

Offline Kern

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2016, 03:23:40 PM »
If you can remember let us know if the cheese yield drops off when the cows start foraging for fresh grass in the pasture.  I am guessing that it will and will post if I notice it.  I expect to see this drop off starting in April.

Offline craftedcurd

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Re: Late Lactation moisture management
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2016, 11:45:37 AM »
Kern - Glad to see you've had the same experience with the change in feed.

I definitely hope to contribute, and plan on regular visits. This place has some good info, and I enjoy everybody's perspectives. Looking forward to lots of great dialogue.