gary dairy summit

The research in the Milk Biochemistry group focuses on the following:

  • Milk composition
  • Ways to reduce the lactose content of milk for subsequent use in dairy products
  • Detection of adulteration of milk in South Africa and upgrading of the screening methods applied
  • Alternative biological and technological methodologies in cheese processing
  • A comparative study of proteolysis in cheddar cheese and yeast-inoculated cheddar cheese during ripening
  • The quantity and quality of milk in Mangaung
  • Participatory development of an indigenous goat cheese product: monitoring of the chemical, nutritional, and microbiological quality from milk to cheese
  • Use of irradiation and elevated temperature in the ripening of cheddar cheese
  • Lactose intolerance and a possible cure
  • Rapid detection of recombined milk in the fresh milk industry
  • Milk composition from non-dairy animals
  • Prebiotic oligosaccharides in milk

The fields of nutrition and dairy technology can learn from animals other than domesticated species. Under study are the proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates of milk from African mammals. The milk composition of 26 species, representing five orders and 16 different taxa, confirmed that milk composition is determined phylogenetically by statistical methods. Of interest was that the milk of the Alcelaphinae (blesbok, hartebeest, and wildebeest) contained the highest levels of saturated medium-length fatty acids in mammalian milk in general ruminants in specific, suggesting a unique biochemical regulation of fat synthesis. Differences in fatty acid composition have also been observed among the indigenous African cattle races. Milk fat from rhinoceros and elephants has been shown to be unique, with very high levels of capric acids, and drastic dynamic changes over lactation time that are apparently unrelated to dietary intake. The high levels of capric acid suggest a unique biochemical regulation of fat synthesis, which needs investigation. This knowledge could stimulate biotechnological applications in milk production, where milk with high levels of short- to medium-chain fatty acids will be suitable for infants with special dietary needs. The milk of cows and other commercially exploited ruminants contains low amounts of prebiotic oligosaccharides. This state seems not to be ruminant-specific, because the subfamily Bovinae, tribe Tragelaphini (sable antelope and gemsbok) contain four times higher levels of oligosaccharides. The proteins of African elephant milk are also unique. Only two of the four casein types occur, challenging the current understanding of the casein micelles regarding structure, role in nutrition, and role in food processing technology.

Prof Osthoff collecting milk from a darted white rhinoceros cow

Prof Osthoff collecting milk from a darted white rhinoceros cow

Principal Investigator

Prof Garry Osthoff

Prof Garry Osthoff

Garry Elephants


Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531

Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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