This study was conducted to evaluate current bacterial quality of raw milk in Saudi Arabia dairy farms, to determine correlation among milk quality tests and to investigate seasonal variations in raw milk bacterial counts. Farm records on bacterial quality of raw milk were obtained from one of the largest dairy processor in Saudi Arabia over one year period (January to December 2013). Bulk tank milk samples were tested for total bacterial (TBC), coliform (CC) and laboratory pasteurization (LPC) counts by dairy plant on daily basis. The results showed that the mean and median values were 5,234 and 1,700 cfu/ml for TBC, 738 and 160 cfu/ml for CC, and 87 and 11 cfu/ml for LPC, respectively. There was low to moderate correlation among bacterial counts, indicating different sources of contamination. Seasonal data indicate higher counts during late fall and early winter compared to other months. In conclusion, this study provide insight on the current level of raw milk bacterial quality in Saudi Arabia and emphasize the importance of using multiple quality parameters for evaluation of raw milk hygienic quality.
Key words: Raw milk bacteria, dairy herds, Saudi Arabia