Three Ways We Ensure Milk is Safe
I love milk, my family loves milk, and among the six of us, we go through at least a gallon every day. I love that, as a family, we produce a product that we can feel good about putting in our bodies, because it’s the perfect trifecta: safe, nutritious and delicious. On our farm, just like any dairy farm you’ll find, there are three key ways we ensure our milk is safe. While each farm may be a little different, the basic principals are the same.
Caring for Our Cows
Caring for my cows means working hard to prevent them from ever getting sick. However, much like humans, sometimes it is inevitable that they get ill and we have to treat them with antibiotics. When that happens we treat with doses appropriate for each individual cow and under the supervision of our veterinarian. Treated cows are milked separately from all others and their milk is dumped down the drain until she metabolizes all antibiotic residues out of her body, which is then verified by a test we take right here on the farm. Prevention of illness is always number one, but when it doesn’t work it feels good to know that our knowledge combined with that of our veterinarian can help us to humanely treat a cow who will in time be able to return to help us safely feed America.
Keeping Our Farm Clean
Keeping our farm clean not only gives us something to be proud of but it helps us keep our cows healthy. Not only do we keep the outside of our farm clean, but we especially keep the barn where the cows live clean and definitely the milking area. In fact, we are required by law to have clean, white surfaces in all rooms where milk is produced and stored, even though the milk will never touch those surfaces. Did you know that milk never even touches human hands and that it needs to be stored at a temperature less than 45 degrees within an hour of leaving a cow? We have a wash system that cleans and sanitizes all surfaces that the milk does touch before and after every time we milk our cows, it’s a lot like a dishwasher in a commercial kitchen. It’s funny, but true that most days my barn is cleaner than my house, because somehow a barn full of cows is easier to clean up after than four kids, a husband and two puppies!
Keeping an Eye on Milk Quality
Monitoring milk quality is a no brainer because I get lab results from our cooperative every day. Yeah, we own a lab that tests our milk for how much protein and butterfat it contains, the health of udders, and most importantly antibiotics. Although I have never gotten a call that my milk contains antibiotics, I use the rest of the lab results daily; they help us make decisions on the farm and track progress, they can even tell us if our cows are eating what they need to every day.
Worst Case Scenario
But, let’s say they do find antibiotics in our milk. Our cooperative would dump the entire truck that has not only the affected milk on it, but milk from other farms as well. Then, we would get a call to let us know, so we don’t make the same mistake twice. Trust me, you won’t, because next they send you a bill for ALL the milk that was on the truck!
Even though our milk is tested before it leaves our farm, it is tested again and again to ensure that it is absolutely safe for human consumption just in case someone along the line missed something. Should a test ever suggest that the milk might not be safe, it will never make it into the human food supply. Not only can farmers rely on lab results, but consumers can, too.