Cheap milk coolers and chillers for profitable dairy farming

Dairy farming is a multibillion sector in the country. It is a source of income and nutrients to millions of Kenya’s citizens. According to the economic survey of 2020, the annual production was 6.6 billion litres of milk in 2019.  It is a priority value chain in over 20 counties according to the ASTGS 2019-2029. 

Each year, dairy farmers, cooperatives and traders suffer losses to spoilt milk. The losses in a milk rich county of Nakuru were 32 per cent in 2018 and 15 per cent in 2019. The highly perishable product can spoil while on the farm, during transit, processing or distribution to retailers and consumers.

The latest technology advancements in food preservation can cut your losses to milk wastage. One of the most common you can try is the use of milk coolers and chillers. The systems can cool the raw fresh milk to below 4 °C as soon as possible after milking, or within three to four hours at the most. The modern types are custom made and suitable for you if you are a small-scale farmer with a cow or two or a large-scale milk processor.

Why you need a milk cooler

In this article, we explore the different cheap milk coolers fit for you. You can add your farm profits by cutting on food wastage, improving its quality and;-

  • Reduce your transport costs by cutting unnecessary trips from the farm to a dairy cooperative. You will accumulate milk at home and market it in large volumes.
  • Negotiate for higher farm gate prices with buyers. It is because they can guarantee a reliable supply of high-quality milk.
  • Milk chilling is the genesis of investing in value addition and milk processing.
  • Selling more milk volumes; by cutting your wastage during transit and increasing the shelf life during distribution.
  • You can make money as an investor, by leasing cold storage to milk traders. They will pay you per a litre, or gallon kept for a day or every hour.

For the above benefits, you can invest in the following milk coolers. The asset is fit for individuals and farmer groups rearing cattle, goats or camels.

Types of milk coolers

You can categorize milk coolers on various criteria. It can be on their energy source, make or use. Typically, you can have bulk tanks, solar-powered mobile chillers or those suitable for retailers;-

Bulk Tanks

Use it if you are a farmer, as cold storage tanks to cool and hold raw milk until it is collected.  Trucks can move the milk tankers from farms to processing plants or distribute it in bulk to dispensers.

It has two tanks of high-quality stainless steel materials. Space between is stuffed with polyurethane foam, making them like huge thermos tanks. In case of a power interruption, milk would drop to 1°C in 24 hours when the external temperatures are 30 °C.

Depending on your needs, you can buy;-

  • Open tanks; These hold from 150 to 3000 litres of milk. Suitable for micro and small dairy producers.
  • Enclosed tanks; These carry 1000 to 10,000 litres of milk. Buy this if you own and operate a medium dairy farm or small processing plant.
  • Milk Silos; Suitable for over 10,000 litres of milk. More fit for a processing plant.

Bulk tanks have following accessories, cooling systems (direct expansion or ice banks), air vents and an agitator. Other parts are the inlet, a manhole, a control box, a cleaning system and an outlet. The modern ones have monitoring and alarm systems to measure and report on temperature and functioning of the tank.

Milk Coolers

Suitable for milk (cold drink) traders, especially during summers. You can install it in a cafeteria, restaurant or a supermarket. You will place milk crates in the cooler. Its refrigeration will blow chilled air through the top and bottom of the interior, or chill the walls of the unit. It will cool the equipment’s or containers keeping the liquids cold. For convenience, you can buy either;-

  • Built-in chillers; These commercial coolers can fit in counters and shelves. It is a superb choice for cafeteria and beverage lines.
  • Fitted Floor drains; These make cleaning work easy for you. You can spray out the milk box and have the water carry the spill down the drain.
  • Tray slides; Customers can slide their food trays along as they go through the line.
  • Dual-sided models; The reach-in refrigerator types have doors on two sides.  Customers on each aisle side of the cafeteria line can shop efficiently.

Milk coolers for small-scale farmers

The bulk of milk supply in Kenya is from smallholder herders.  Each has 2 or 3 dairy cows in rural areas. Their access to electricity and cold storage is low. The following are ingenious milk cooling and preservation methods for low-scale and domestic applications.

Charcoal Coolers

It uses an evaporative cooling system. The heat from milk will evaporate water in the charcoal walls of the structure, keeping it cool. The limitation of the system is that it is ineffective in moist and high humidity weather.

Immersion Cooling

You will place aluminium milk cans in a stream, river or water tank. It can cool milk to 10 °C. At that warmth, the bacteria activity is low, making them ineffective to spoil milk. In a tank, you can add ice cubes to keep milk cold.

Renewable energy coolers

If you want to run a sustainable and eco-friendly farm, you can use a solar-powered milk cooler.  It will use sunlight as its source of energy.  You can construct any of two types;-

Solar photovoltaic coolers

This system charges a direct current (DC) cooling system and battery to keep the milk at low temperature.  You can have one stationed on the farm or invest in a mobile one. Innovation in Kenya mounts this solar-powered milk chillers to a motorbike, donkey carts, lorry, pickup or a tricycle depending on the capacity. They can keep milk fresh for up to three days.

Solar thermal coolers

It uses solar rays to keep food hot or cold. The heat energy is collected from solar radiation and used to vaporize a refrigerant like ammonia or a lithium bromide water mixture.

How to choose the best milk chillers

There are many factors to consider to shop for efficient milk chiller. These are on your current and projected herd size, calving patterns, frequency of milk collection, required milk quality, energy and water availability.

 However, the key ones are energy, use, efficiency, cost, quality and scale of production.

·        Energy efficiency; energy costs for cooling and keeping milk low can be costly for you. To cut your costs, look for a milk cooling plant that uses off-grid energy like solar.  

·  Cost; the initial buying cost for milk-cooling systems can be high. The cost of an imported chiller is more expensive than a locally fabricated one. Farmers can come together in milk producer groups or cooperatives and apply for loans, subsidies or grants to buy the best chiller for their collection hubs.

· Quality; the best tanks use steel that meets international standards. For small-scale farmers, you can use aluminium alloy cans that are fit for carrying human food.

·  Scale of production; your cooler capacity should fit your productivity. The typical tank volumes range from 150 to 2500 litters. In case your volumes are lower, consider other cheaper means like the small milk bottles for storing and travelling milk for home use.

· Flexibility. Primary uses for coolers are to Store quality raw milk or prolong shelf life processed milk for traders. To store raw milk use, bulk tanks for sale use the milk coolers or refrigerators. You can also buy a piece of flexible equipment you can use to store different farm products like fresh vegetables and fruits. Expansion and compatibility with newer energy sources or coolants should be a consideration.

Milk coolers and chillers are necessary on a modern dairy farm. They will cut your milk wastage for dairy farmers and traders, giving you more profits. As an individual or farmers’ group, there are various types can choose. They include solar or mobile ones. To purchase the best, evaluate its cost, quality and energy efficiency.

Samuel K

Samuel Kibicho is passionate about profitable and safe agriculture as a tool for wealth creation and food security. He is the founder of Agcenture and consults in market systems development (MSD), program management and result measurement, monitoring and evaluation for sustainable agriculture & rural development projects.

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