Second Only to Cows: The Logistics Industry and Dairy Farming

The dairy industry in Kenya is no stranger to controversy: from large corporate bodies achieving a near monopoly on the market to a ‘miraculous’ new dairy breed named Fleckvieh promising greater milk yields, and the current appeal to opposing the sale of now thriving KCC to private investors, instead of allowing independent dairy farmers to manage the company to national benefit. With such a crucial industry continuing to see promising growth and dedicated investors, where do we as supply chain management professionals fit in?

The dairy industry is unsurprisingly reliant on the logistics sector from very early in the production process. Once procured from the farm, milk requires treatment at specialized factories equipped to process the precious raw material into the wide selection of dairy products available at your local retailer.

Logistics first comes into play in getting milk from farms to the milk plants, in that there are generally three options. First, farmers can arrange for their own logistics support and get milk directly to the plant themselves. In developing countries such as Kenya this is often not the case as most dairy farmers lack the resources to connect to processing factories in this way, with volumes produced generally not justifying such an expense.

Milk can also go from the farmers to an uncooled collection center. This is common in Kenya, where several farmers gather at one centralized location to pool together their produce for shipment to processing plants, employing economies of scale. Often these are informal collection centers utilizing common trucks for the sole purpose of milk transportation. An improvement on these would be the cooled collection center. Often organized by firms running factories themselves, this is a much safer option as milk is cooled to optimum temperatures that inhibit bacteria growth before freighting to factories, allowing for collection from more distant areas as milk will not go bad before delivery to processing plants.

Supply chain managers dealing in milk transportation have a set of concerns specific to the dairy industry that they need to consider in planning and implementing logistics of dairy products. The first and most obvious is hygiene concerns. Industry standards of cleanliness, along with laws set by state bodies governing food transportation must be met and adhered to, not just to avoid legal ramifications but also to protect the consumer from complications arising from contaminated milk. Supply chain managers must also consider protecting milk from oxidation and direct sunlight which may affect the composition of the milk.

It is common knowledge that the temperature at which milk is kept affects its viability. This especially becomes a consideration where distance from the milk processing plant is an issue, meaning milk is required to keep fresh for longer, attainable using climate controlled containers or vehicles.

Humidity and pH of the containers are oft ignored factors that can cost supply chain managers an entire cargo of milk: some bacteria thrive in moist air, others in dry air, but both must be kept at bay to prevent spoiling of milk. Acidity or alkalinity of, say, the containers milk is transported in can also alter its state, causing premature curdling that would render the milk largely unusable.

Once safely delivered to processing plants, the final product is again placed in the trust of supply chain managers to ensure efficient and timely distribution to retailers across the nation.

Photo Credit: news.com.au

Photo Credit: news.com.au

In the journey to make sure butter reaches your breakfast table in a timely and edible fashion, we dare say logistics industry players are coming in a close second for the title of “Most Valuable Team Player”, with all due respect to the cows that begin the process, of course. We encourage you to make your day just that much better: treat yourself to your favorite flavor of yogurt in our honor and enjoy the budding week!

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