The issue of ‘non-foaming’ milk continues to appear periodically over the last few years and has escalated rather significantly since late August. Unfortunately, the Board is only made aware of “non-foaming” milk once it is already in the hands of consumers, then complaints are made to a processor, and the processor communicates back to the Milk Board. The Milk Board intends to monitor non-foaming milk that is reported by processors and relay to those farms responsible for hasty attention and resolution.

Processors cannot market ‘non-foaming’ milk to coffee shops or restaurants that provide specialty coffees. It results in returns, lost sales, and could ultimately end in the milk being disposed of. While provincial quality regulations do not outline the foamability of milk as a requirement, we must ensure the milk provided to our processors meet the needs of our consumers. ‘Non-foaming’ milk is a detrimental quality problem to processors and coffee shops. Coffee shops compete on the quality of their latte’s and specialty drinks; no foam equals a loss of business.

Research has shown that the ‘non-foaming’ properties are linked with an increase of lipase enzyme activity which could result in a decreased shelf life of dairy, as well as the possibility of early rancidity of milk products. Because of this, producers must be aware and resolve their non-foaming issues immediately or risk quality deterioration and milk rejections.

It is important to note, that the current research does not fully understand the root causes of ‘non-foaming’ milk. We know that non-foaming milk is caused by Lipolysis – the breakdown of the fat molecules in milk. Once milk develops excessive lipase enzyme activity, the lipase can continue to grow and cause larger volumes of milk to experience lipolysis and results in ‘non-foaming’ milk. Even a small volume transforms a larger volume into ‘non-foaming’ milk within hours. The lipase activity does not stop until pasteurization, therefore can affect full silos. If staff are made aware of an issue on your route, all farms on the route will be notified immediately and we will work to identify the problematic farm.

There is no single resolution to the problem of ‘non-foaming’ milk. Research to date indicates that many different factors can increase the risk of ‘non-foaming’ milk. It also appears that these factors seem to be compounding and the more that apply the more the likelihood of an issue arising.

  • There is a correlation with higher FFA’s on Automatic Milking Systems, which may correlate with non-foaming
  • Physical Disruption, such as aggressive agitation or other handling during milking and cooling
  • Temperature during agitation
  • Temperature of milk during storage (>4°C)
  • Incorporation of air into milk lines or milk pumps
  • Milking frequency (risk increases with increased milking’s)
  • Cows long in days in milk (DIM >305)
  • Poor quality feed and nutrition (ie. high butyric acid levels in feed can lead to rancid milk)

The Board currently does not have the means to determine if a producer’s milk is non-foaming prior to receiving complaints.

What producers can do to decrease the risk of non-foaming milk

  • Watch your Free Fatty Acid (FFA) test results. The FFA number itself does not have an easy and translatable meaning and there is no exact number where you will have foaming vs non-foaming. However, we have found that the higher the number, the more susceptible your farm may be to ‘non-foaming’. If you see a large spike in your FFA, you should pay special attention. Research continues to determine the most practical way to report FFA levels and provide producers with guidelines on when a herd’s FFA level is in a problem range.
  • Work with your equipment dealers, nutritionist, and other industry experts. We need all experts working together in order to solve this producer and industry problem.
  • Pay particular attention if your farm is using automated milking systems. This may increase the milks susceptibility to higher FFA’s and non-foaming challenges. Work closely with your dealer to ensure equipment settings minimize air entry during milking and milk transfer.
  • Limit or do not milk cows that exceed 305 days in milk (DIM)
  • Limit the number of milkings in excess of >3 times per day

Some guidance may be to ensure that milk volumes per milking exceed 8L for jerseys and 10L for Holsteins (excluding fresh animals)

  • Review your agitation speed (rpm) and temperature at agitation. Too quick of agitation of warm milk will increase lipolysis.
  • Foam your own milk a few hours after taking a milk sample. If you or anyone in your home has an electric milk frothing device, try frothing your own milk and compare it to store purchased milk. Although your understanding may vary, non-foaming milk will show no foam at all, or bubbles will develop but dissipate quickly. There are a variety of options from $20-$100 that can be purchased online or at many general merchandise stores.

If you have any further questions, please contact:


Ministry of Agriculture, Provincial Dairy Technologist

Erin Cuthbert at 604-226-1405