4 main challenges in milk collection

Milk collection is orchestrated by processors but involves stakeholders from across the dairy industry. All of them pull together to guarantee the success of this critical step in the dairy value chain.

  • A critical moment. Four challenges. Mutually supportive stakeholders.

    Les 4 enjeux de la collecte laitières

  • 1. Continuous supply
    Collection every 48 hours, hail or shine!

    Cows produce milk constantly

    On average, 6,800 litres per year with two milking sessions per day. Cows suffer pain if they are not milked.

    Milk is a perishable raw material

    As a live material, milk is fragile and perishable. It must be processed no later than 72 hours after milking.

    Farms have limited storage capacity

    Milk storage tanks exist in different sizes. When they are full, any remaining milk goes to waste…

    Dairies need regular deliveries of milk

    to ensure processing continuity.

  • 2. Respecting the cold chain
    4°C from the milk tank and the milk delivery tanker to the dairy

    Respect de la chaine du froid pendant la collecte

  • 3. Time management
    Three hours between farm collection and dairy delivery

    gestion du temps pendant la collecte

  • 4. Quality control
    A guarantee of safety and excellence

    How is milk collection monitored?

    • A sample is taken (manually or automatically) when the milk is collected
    • By a trained driver
    • The sample is placed in a cool box
    • Random analyses are carried in a laboratory
    • The results are provided within 48 hours to the farmer and the dairy through an online system (“INFOLABO”)

    What is monitored?

    • Fat content
    • Protein content
    • The number of germs and cells
    • The freezing point (no added water)
    • The presence of antibiotics


Close-up on milk collection

In France, 98% of cow’s milk is collected for processing in dairies, or 24.5 billion out of 25 billion litres of milk (2015). The remaining 2% is used to produce farm cheese (sold directly to consumers).

  • A milk collection

    On average, each milk collection round involves:

    •  75 km of travel      
    • 15,000 litres of collected milk

    Streamlined milk collection rounds save time and fuel.

    Some companies use IT tools to optimize rounds.

  • Regional collection


    • Milk is produced and collected in all French regions!
    • Cooperative enterprises collect 54% of cow’s milk and 62% of goat’s milk. The rest is collected by private companies.
    • In eight of the nine dairy-producing regions, cooperatives are as least as common as private companies.

                 Map of cow’s milk collection in France in 2011

     Carte de la collecte de lait en France

  • Seasonality
    • Milk collection is a seasonal activity.
    • In France, milk collection always reaches a peak in May.
    • This is directly linked to milk production varying with the time of year. Our farming systems calve and put cows out to pasture in early spring (March), when the grass grows fast!
    • This seasonality is less pronounced in Germany but more noticeable in Ireland and New Zealand.

    Graphique de la saisonnalité de la production de lait en France

Mutually supportive stakeholders

Collection provides a pivotal link between milk production and processing, demonstrating perfectly the notion of a mutually supportive value chain for raw milk:
  • A shared interest in obtaining superior-quality milk
    Milk quality guarantees dairy product quality in terms of organoleptic properties and safety.
  • Best-practice sharing between dairies
    Dairies optimize their milk collection. They may collect milk from a farmer in their catchment area even if it will be used by another dairy.
  • Milk collection creates links!
    Driven by this shared interest, the different stakeholders endeavour to find solutions for collecting milk whatever the circumstances. For example, farmers set up an all-terrain platform near the tank for the milk collection tanker. In snowy weather, they work together to ensure that the tanker can get through.
Milk collection in snowy weather
Credits : France 3 Haute Normandie