Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk
Dairy farmers take a lot of pride in their animals and the way the farm looks, but they also care a whole lot about the milk that leaves the farm. This is the very reason why my farm had to dump a bulk tank, or storage tank, full of milk a few weeks ago. I didn’t realize anything was wrong that day until my husband sent me a text message with a photo of the milk from our tank emptying into the drain and a message that read “contactor broke.” He’s not big on texting, but that means the switch was broken that channels the electricity to the compressor, which in turn cools the milk.
Farmers have a responsibility to provide safe food to consumers, and on the farm we monitor everything that goes into making the milk. This includes the food our cattle eat, the health of the animals, the proper and monitored use of antibiotics when needed, and the quality of our milk before it leaves the farm. The reason our tank of milk was dumped because it wasn’t properly cooled.
A healthy cow’s body temperature averages at 100.5 degrees F. As the milk leaves her body, it is pumped through a stainless steel pipe to the bulk tank, where it is cooled to less than 45 degrees F. Our milk is picked up every morning; one load of milk contains one night milking and one morning milking. The night before, the milk was completely cooled, and in the morning when milking chores started, the compressor, which cools the milk in the bulk tank, did not start. Out of habit we assumed that since the bulk tank was agitating normally, or continually churning the milk, it was cooling the milk as well, and we went about our morning routine. When our milk hauler arrived a few hours after chores, she noticed the temperature of the milk was above regulation temperature and contacted us. All the warm milk from the morning’s milking heated the cold milk from the night before, and, therefore, all the milk in our bulk tank was unsafe and had to be dumped.
I’ve been told not to cry over spilled milk, but I have to tell you, it’s hard to watch profit in any business “go down the drain.” Regardless, we would rather take a loss than ship a product that isn’t perfect because it really is our responsibility to provide consumers with safe and dependable food. Accidents can happen, and while sharing it isn’t always fun, we hope you see that the dairy industry has checks and balances; everyone who handles our milk wants to provide a safe product for you to enjoy.
Want to learn more about how dairy farmers make sure milk is safe? Watch the Journey of Milk from farm to table!