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What's the difference between goat milk and cow milk?

Most knowledgeable people say there is very little difference between goat milk and cow milk. Goat milk is whiter, and the cream doesn't rise as readily or as completely, and some people prefer the flavor of good goat milk, but in general, so far as the consumer is concerned, they are virtually the same. Thus the question, "How do you make chocolate goat milk?" and others that assume vast differences between goat and milk are off the mark.

That said, however, there are differences between the two that are of interest and importance to those with more technical concerns. One of these involves the composition of the milk for determining quality standards.

Goat milk has a different short chain fatty acid ratio and different vitamin content than cow milk. It also has a lower alkaline phosphatase content, a lower freezing point, and it lacks a-1 casein, the major casein in cow milk.

In addition, the goat secretory system is apocrine--it produces milk by separation of part of the cytoplasm of the secreting cells--which results in the presence of cytoplasmic particles in the milk. The cow, with its merocrine system--the milk is discharged without major damage to the secreting cells--doesn't produce milk with these particles.

What all this means is that the natural components of goat milk interfere with the accuracy of the official Bacillus stearothermophilus antibiotic residue test for milk. In plain English, the test might say the milk doesn't meet government standards, when in reality it's perfectly normal.

Several states have reported 12-15 mm zones when goat milk is tested, and these may be the result of antagonistic action by short chain fatty acids. The National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) has a standard plate count be run on goat milk samples, with a 14-16 mm zone of other inhibitors in the B. stearothermophilus test.

Fluctuations in milk qualities such as somatic cell count and fat content occur because goats are season Goat milk bulk tank somatic cell counts show a distinct seasonal variation, with the lowest in April and the highest in September and October, reflecting the higher number of fresh-to-midlactation goats in April and more late-lactation does in the fall. Counts begin to increase about four months after freshening and with the onset of estrous cycles.

Samples from 51 bulk tanks, taken in the fall and tested at the University of Connecticut Mastitis Laboratory, showed that 31 percent were in violation of the one million per ml standard.

Starting July 1, 1993, the maximum somatic cell count for Grade A cow milk sold commercially will drop from 1 million to 750,000 cells per ml. Of the goat milk tested, 64 percent of the samples were in excess of this level... and it's completely natural.

Therefore, the NCIMS Goat Milk Committee voted in 1991 to allow the maximum somatic cell count to remain at 1 million cells per ml, thus allowing for natural seasonal variation.

While none of this might be of more than passing interest to the average back-yard home goat dairy, there is one practical application:

The California Mastitis Test (CMT) is also likely to give false readings on goat milk. --Adapted from L. S. Hinckley, Dairy, Food and Environmental Sanitation 11:511, 1991.

Watch what you say around non-goat people...

Sometimes it seems like even the simplest statement can be taken in different ways. according to Pat Ungefug, writing in the October, 1992 issue of Dairy Goat Digest, (newsletter of the South Carolina Dairy Goat Association, Karen Smith Sec'y-Treas., 125 Willingham Rd., Belton SC 29627).

Pat said she and another person were milking a friend's goats during the National Convention last year when she noticed a doe in estrus. She mentioned that "This doe must be in heat--she has a snotty nose."

She wasn't looking at the goat's nose, of course, but at the tell-tale vaginal discharge. It's rather cute, and common, "goat talk."

Later however, a doe was brought to Pat's farm for breeding. The doe was not being very receptive to the buck, and the other person pronounced her not in heat because she didn't have a snotty nose!

"We had a good laugh afterwards," Pat said, "but realized that such a careless remark could have beginners bringing their sick goats to us for breeding!"

In another instance, a visitor at a fair was knocking the La Manchas because of their short ears, which the observer found unattractive. Pat agreed that the breed didn't make a good impression, adding "but they grow on you." The man took that to mean that you can tell a goat's age by the length of its ears!
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Hinckley, L.S.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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