P9a – On-farm opportunities to add value to milk components

Adding value to milk

Project contact:

Russ Hovey, University of California, Davis, USA


  • University of Sydney
  • University of California, Davis, USA

Timeframe: 2022-2025

This project is looking at on-farm opportunities to reduce the water content of milk which would increase the concentration of milk components. The potential benefits of this include:

  • Cost reductions associated with transporting and processing lower volume milk along the supply chain.
  • A more environmentally sustainable product associated with less water input per unit of end-product. 

The amount of water in milk is largely influenced by the content of the milk component, lactose. The Dairy UP team is exploring ways to influence lactose production to reduce the amount of water in milk while maintaining the production of valuable milk components (solids). 

In addition to processing benefits, the ability to influence lactose production has broad implications for improving the cow’s energy balance, reproduction, milking persistency, genetics, milk quality and animal welfare. 

In dairy cows, lactose production could potentially be influenced through genetics, nutrition or other interventions. The master regulator of lactose production is alpha-lactalbumin, a hormone that is only produced in the udder. The team is exploring opportunities to influence the production of alpha-lactalbumin. 

This project will involve analysing millions of records from NSW herds sourced through Dairy UP monitor farms, NSW herd test records and selected Ginfo herds (DataGene’s national reference herds for genetic information). Once potential interventions have been identified, physiological trials will be conducted on specific herds or individual cows.  

Progress (April 2022):  
A desktop/data study is currently underway. Physiological and intervention studies are scheduled for 2022-2023. Developing interventions to be applied at farm level are scheduled for 2024-25