Here, we review what is known about the microorganisms present in raw milk, including milk from cows, sheep, goats and humans. Milk, due to its high nutritional content, can support a rich microbiota. These microorganisms enter milk from a variety of sources and, once in milk, can play a number of roles, such as facilitating dairy fermentations (e.g. Lactococcus, Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Propionibacterium and fungal populations), causing spoilage (e.g. Pseudomonas, Clostridium, Bacillus and other spore-forming or thermoduric microorganisms), promoting health (e.g. lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) or causing disease (e.g. Listeria, Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter and mycotoxin-producing fungi). There is also concern that the presence of antibiotic residues in milk leads to the development of resistance, particularly among pathogenic bacteria. Here, we comprehensively review these topics, while comparing the approaches, both culture-dependent and culture-independent, which can be taken to investigate the microbial composition of milk.