The study was conducted to assess the general milk production system, handling practices, processing, utilization and marketing system of raw cow milk produced in Mizan Aman, Debub and Shey Bench Districts. A total of 270 respondents (thirty respondents from each study area) were selected using simple random sampling technique and interviewed by using a semi structured questionnaires. The results of current study showed that the respondents of Shey Bench and Debub Bench were entirely (100%) engaged in farming activities, predominately mixed production system. Similarly, majority (82.2%) of the respondents of Mizan Aman were also pre-dominantly involved in mixed crop livestock production while the remaining 17.8% were involved only in Peri-urban production system. Majority of the respondents in the three districts (91.1, 100 and 90% of Mizan Aman, Debub and Shey Bench) had dairy cows from 1 to 5, some had from 6 to 10 and 11 to 15. About 95.6, 94.4 and 78.9% of the respondents in Mizan Aman, Debub and Shey Bench use plastic buckets for milking. As reported by most of the respondents (95.6, 58.9 and 55.6% of Mizan Aman, Debub and Shey Bench districts, respectively), clay pot is used for storage of milk until the wanted amount is accumulated for processing. About 60.0, 26.7 and 20.0% of the respondents utilize raw milk or fresh milk in Mizan Aman, Debub and Shey Bench districts, respectively. Majority of the respondents (97.8, 92.2 and 70.0% in the Mizan Aman, Debub and Shey Bench districts) reported that scarcity of milk is the main problem of milk and milk products marketing in the study areas. The common milk production constraints and prioritized by the sampled farmers were shortage of feed and scarcity of land, diseases, accessibility to marketing place, limitation of market information and inadequate infrastructure. Therefore, it was concluded that the majority of the milk produced in the study areas were not processed, marketed and mainly utilized by household family for home consumption. These suggest the need for enriched dairy cattle production scheme in the study areas.
Key words: Bench Maji, milk handling, raw milk, utilization of milk.
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