Why Does Cow Milk Taste Salty?

If you’ve ever taken a sip of cow milk only to experience a salty taste, you may wonder what could cause it. 

Milk from cows should be delicious and never salty. 

Off-tastes indicate several different things regarding milk, but what does a salty taste mean?

A few different things cause the salty taste in cow milk. Milk left in containers where too much air gets in may become salty. Mastitis and advanced lactation are two issues also responsible for producing an off-taste to milk which sometimes results in saltiness. 

It often results from storage or other issues with the dairy cow itself. 

Let’s examine why cow milk tastes salty and what to do about it. 

why does cow milk taste salty

Is Salty Cow Milk Bad To Drink?

Drinking dairy milk has many health benefits, but what if it tastes a little off? 

If your recent milk yield from your dairy cattle had a salty intensity, you might want to reconsider drinking it. 

This is especially true if you drink raw milk or non-pasteurized milk. 

While there are many different types of milk, no one wants to drink rancid milk. 

The question of whether or not salty milk is rancid milk or unhealthy to drink depends on the cause of the salty intensity. 

Overall, we do not recommend you drink salty milk. 

Often the salty milk is caused by too much air getting to the milk or other lactation issues like mastitis, which make the milk taste bad. 

It’s best to hold off on the potentially rancid milk and enjoy other milk types while you figure out the cause. 

Salty types of milk may cause a health issue or upset stomach much as they would with a milk allergy. 

What makes the milk taste bad may also cause health complications which is why it is best to get rid of the salty milk and opt for another option in the meantime. 

What Causes Cow Milk To Taste Salty?

The putrid flavors of salty milk are pretty unpleasant. 

It gives the milk an unclean flavor or rancid flavor. 

Knowing the cause of the unclean flavor in your dairy milk is important if you want to keep it from continuing to happen. 

Here are the most common causes of putrid flavors:

Too Much Air Getting To The Milk

One common cause of a brothy or unclean flavor is storing milk in the wrong containers. 

If the container allows too much air into the milk, it will cause many putrid flavors and eventually turn to rancid milk. 

If you put your milk in an airtight container and store it upright, you’ll prevent the rancid flavor from developing in the milk. 

If you ever detect a brothy flavor or cheese flavor in milk, it’s important to look at how you store it. 

Inadequate storage builds up bacteria, which will spoil the milk and cause many bad smells, tastes, and even health issues. 


Another likely culprit behind a salty taste in milk is mastitis. 

An inflamed or infected mammary gland causes bovine mastitis. 

Often this will result in a decreased milk yield in the affected cow or poor quality milk. 

Mastitis happens to many mammals, including humans, which also affects milk production and breast milk taste. 

It is often painful and unpleasant for the cow or human it affects. 

Just like mastitis may affect the taste of breast milk, it also affects the taste of the fluid milk from cows. 

Mastitis sometimes just happens, but the risk is increased when they haven’t had the chance to let the calves milk for a while.

Further Reading: What happens to cows who aren’t milked?

Advanced Lactation

The condition called advanced lactation also causes salty milk. 

Salty milk is often characterized as having no odor, basic taste sensation, and a clean mouthfeel. 

It is generally easily detected, but it doesn’t make the taste any less unpleasant. 

While other tastes like acid taste in milk are caused by a growth of lactic acid bacteria, late lactation often causes saltiness. 

Advanced lactation or late lactation occurs during the end of a cow’s lactation period. 

For most breeds of cows, this is between 200-305 days into the lactation period. 

This means the milk from your cows towards the end of their lactation may not taste the best due to salty taste intensities. 

How To Prevent Salty Cow Milk

If you want to take action to prevent salty cow milk, there are a few options to ensure it doesn’t occur. 

Luckily most of this comes fairly easily. 

The same goes for most other types of milk. 

This means these steps also protect goat milk taste or whatever other milk you have available on your farm. 

Store Correctly

Using the right storage containers for your cow milk will greatly improve the quality and taste of the milk. 

Make sure you store the milk upright to keep it tastes good and retain its integrity. 

One of the most important parts of storing milk, whether it be from cows, goats, or sheep, is to keep it in airtight containers. 

This keeps bacteria from getting in and causing a rancid taste. 

Too much air causes a myriad of issues, including salty taste intensities. 

Assess Cows For Lactation Issues

One of the most common causes of salty taste intensities in milk is the mammary gland condition called mastitis. 

The condition is uncomfortable for the cow, so catching it early will make them happier and prohibit you from collecting salty milk. 

Make sure to check the udders of your cow regularly. 

Udders with a hot temperature or obvious inflammation are likely due to mastitis. 

Keep Track Of Lactation Periods

Since the likelihood of salty milk increases as cows reach the end of their lactation period, it helps to not use the milk from later on in the cycle. 

Keep track of lactation periods to see when you are getting towards the end of the cycle, as this will help you catch salty milk earlier. 

Read next: Can a cow drink its own milk?

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through Farmpertise.com, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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