Questioning Your Food-Milk

As you sit down to dinner each night, do you think about where your food comes from?
While walking the isles of the grocery store, do you ever think about what’s produced in your state or region?

Lately, there is much conversation about antibiotics in meats and milk, along with a heavy conversation about GMO’s.

As a consumer, it made me sit back and think about where I got all of my information that is stored in my head about the food I eat.

As some of you already know, I also work on another farm. That farm is a 76-head dairy farm that produces milk that goes into our supply chain. That milk can become bottled milk, yogurt or cheese.

Neighboring Dairy Farm

I have talked and asked lots of questions over the years about the milk that goes into the tank for pickup. I have asked lots of questions about what happens to the milk from treated cows.

Here are just a sampling of those questions and responses:

1. About how much milk do your cows produce?
Our herd average is 80 pounds of milk per day.

2. Why do you use a milk line? (A milk line is a stainless steel pipeline that pumps milk from the cow to the milk house and ultimately into the bunk tank)
The system is mandatory for the USDA regulations. It is the safest way to transport milk from the cow to the milk house. It is a closed loop system that prevents air from within the barn to enter into the lines and reduces the opportunity for air-borne bacteria to enter the system. 

3. With the closed-loop system, do you still pay close attention to the cleaning process?
Yup, it is mandatory that the system is flush and cleaned with an approved cleaner to make sure that all of the milk held within the line is removed. Even our milking claws (that’s the piece that fastens to the teats of the cow) is fulling cleaned and heated with 180 degree water to ensure a sterilization process too.

4. Do you milk any of the cows that just freshened? (Or just gave birth to a calf)
We use a pail milker to remove just enough milk from that cow to relieve the pressure and fullness of her udder. We use the pail to make sure that the milk never reaches the bulk tank. The colostrum or mother’s first milk is feed to the calf. Any remaining is dumped out and unusable for any type of consumption. No other calf gets the colostrum and no human gets it either.

5. What happens if the mother gets milk fever or mastitis? (This are illnesses found in cows that are producing milk typical caused by an infection)
A vet usually checks them to make sure that our preliminary diagnosis is correct and then we typically treat the animal with antibiotics to help her fight off the infection. 

6. Once you treat them, what happens to their milk?
All of her milk is dumped. She is milked into the milk pail and the milk is then discarded. It isn’t acceptable for the bulk tank.

7. What happens if the milk gets into the tank?
When the milk is tested at the delivery site, if it registers back that the milk is contaminated with antibiotics, the whole truck gets dumped. The trucking company will then back track the milk in that load to the farms it was picked up from. If it is discovered that is from our farm, we are responsible to pay for the loss of the whole truck of milk. One load tracked back to our farm could put us out of business.
*Special note- Some milk pick up companies do a dip test at the time of pick-up. 

8.  How much milk do you send on a truck?
We send approximately 10,000 pounds of milk every other day. Since a gallon of milk weighs approximately 8.5 pounds, that means we ship 1176 gallons of milk.

9. Wait, they only pick up milk every TWO days?
Yes, we have a chiller attached to our tank to ensure that the milk is kept at 45 degrees. All milk that enters the tank MUST be chilled to that temperature within two hours. When we do additional milkings, the tank can NEVER go above 50 degrees.
Ultimately, the milk is pasteurized at temperatures about 160 degrees to kill any bacteria that may enter the milk.

10. Do you drink milk from the tank?
Yes, we do take about a gallon, maybe two, a week to drink ourselves. We do not pasteurize for our own consumption.

I hope that these questions and answers help those who were curious and concerns about antibiotics within the milk supply chain. If you have any further questions, comments or concerns please leave a note or comment below. We will take the time to answer them all.

Will Gilmer of Gilmer Dairy has also taken time to write about antibiotics in milk today. I hope you all click the link to go read his view points as well.

2 thoughts on “Questioning Your Food-Milk”

  1. Thanks for sharing these FAQs. There are some questions here others have asked me. I will definitely share this with them. I had the opportunity to work in a dairy for a month last Fall. It’s amazing how much dairy farmers do to keep their milk products safe. Thank you!

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