Written by Amanda Erichsen, OFN ContributorAccording to Scott E. Poock, DVM and clinical assistant professor for the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, milk quality is a factor of three main areas, the cows, the milking equipment and the farmer.
“The cows must remain healthy, on a balanced feed ration, and live in a clean environment,” Poock said. “The milking equipment must be properly functioning and maintained. The farmer must provide a stress-free life for the cow, and prepare the cow properly for milking.”
When it comes to providing a quality and safe milk product, a farmer who has 40 years of experience in the dairy industry can offer plenty of ways that this is done. Ryan Anglin, owner of Triple A Farms in Bentonville, Ark., practices what his mother taught him, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“Healthy animals provide safe milk products,” Anglin said. “Food safety is a dairy farmers main concern.”
According to Anglin, maintaining healthy animals is part of a complete package of care. “On our farm, a veterinarian has a scheduled visit every month to make sure all animals are healthy.”
Every cow undergoes the Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) test each month, Anglin said. This helps farmers keep a record on everything regarding cow health including reproductive history, milk fat and cell counts.
“When it comes to feed rations, we test all of our grains,” Anglin said. “We buy our grain from a large company, that way we know traceability and support is provided in case there is something that threatens the safety of our milk product.”
Milking facilities at Triple A Farms are also tested monthly. “Not only is the farm inspected, but the inspector is inspected yearly,” Anglin said. “If something doesn’t pass inspection, we can’t sell our product until it is fixed.”
According to Anglin, a truck will not take milk off a farm that is above 42 degrees or has any odor that stands out.
“At our farm we test for antibiotics in every tank of milk we fill,” he added. “This is also tested when the milk arrives at the plant. Before the truck leaves the farm, the driver will take a sample of the milk put in the truck’s tank to test and keep. The driver will do this for every farm that fills the truck that day. Usually a truck will take five to 10 farms to fill a load. When the tank is full on the truck, they also take a sample of the load.”
These test are not done because farmers are misusing medications, but to make sure that the milk from a cow that has been treated did not accidentally end up in the bulk tank, Poock added.
Anglin added that all of these samples have bar codes so if anything goes wrong with the milk at the plant or after a product is released to sell, it can be traced back to the farm to address the problem.
Poock added that farmers must have their Bulk Tank Somatic Cell Count (SCC) below 750,000 to market milk in the U.S. However, many milk cooperatives and processing plants have reduced this number to 400,000 to meet European standards.
“In the last year, nearly 85-90 percent of all dairy farms in the U.S. have met the more rigid standard of 400,000,” Poock said. “Dairymen are concerned about the quality of milk they produce and have responded to the call for higher-quality milk.”
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