Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Testing to Ensure there are No Antibiotic Residues in Milk

Cow health is very important on our farm. We work to keep our animals healthy and comfortable limiting the need for medications. A key to cow health is providing the animals with nutritious food, clean water, and a comfortable living environment.

Everyone on our farm observes the cows daily so we notice if an animal is ill. If a cow is sick, we provide the treatment she needs to be healthy again. Sick animals go to the hospital pen where they get the special attention they need. The hospital cows are still milked during treatment, but their milk is dumped down the drain. Her milk will continue to be dumped until the treatment is complete and the medicine is clear in her system.

To ensure there are no antibiotic residues in the milk, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that every truckload of milk – organic and regular – be tested for antibiotics when it arrives at the processing plant. Any milk that is determined to be positive is rejected. This rarely happens, only 0.014% (14 thousandths of 1%) of the tanker-level samples of raw milk (429 out 3.15 million) tested positive for antibiotics in 2014. Any load testing positive is discarded.

From small creameries, like the one we have on our farm, to large milk processing plants, everyone must follow the same milk testing protocols to ensure there are no antibiotic residues in milk.

Me taking a milk sample from our vat pasteurizer
I use the Delvotest to check milk for antibiotic residue
The three vials in the block heater: 1) sample of current milk in vat, 2) negative control, 3) positive control
          The results: 1) current vat sample is yellow (no drug residue found), 2)  negative control is yellow, 3) positive control is purple

In addition to testing raw milk, finished product is also tested to insure its free of antibiotic residues. In FDA’s most recent annual report, no antibiotics were found in milk headed to stores. Of the 37,707 retail-ready milk samples tested last year, none were positive. Nor did it find antibiotics in milk headed to market in 2011, 2012 or 2013.

Dairy farmers have strong incentives to keep their milk free of antibiotics. In the rare instance of a positive test at the plant, the milk is rejected and the farmer is financially liable for the entire truck load. If there were another violation by the same farmer, state regulators would apply more severe penalties, such as a fine and/or revoking the farmer’s license to sell milk.

We take cow health and milk quality very seriously. We’re proud of the milk produced on our farm!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The First Batches of Milk at Rowdy Cow Creamery

Rowdy Cow Creamery, our new on-farm milk bottling plant, is officially operating! We’ve been constructing, installing equipment, purchasing supplies and planning for a year and last week we bottled the first batches of milk.
The creamery ready for action

Fresh milk is pumped into our vat minutes after it leaves the cow’s udder. The milk is low temperature vat pasteurized in small batches.
Fresh milk is piped into the creamery
A small batch of white milk in the vat pasteurizer
Chocolate milk mixing in the vat

We bottle milk in half gallon and pint size containers. All the labels are put on the bottles by hand.

Half gallon bottles are ready to be filled with whole, white milk
My son, Garrett, helps label and organize the bottles before going into the filler

Milk is pumped from the vat to the bottler to fill the bottles.
Pint bottles filling with chocolate milk
Pints filling with white milk
Chocolate half gallons being filled
Orange Cream half gallons filling
Our product line includes a variety of flavors; white, vanilla, chocolate, mocha, strawberry, orange cream, root beer, and cookies & cream.

Orange cream pints filled, capped and ready for the cooler
Lad loading bottles into crates that will go into the cooler
Taylor taking the filled crates to the cooler
Our first two batches of milk in crates in our walk-in refrigerator.
Bottled milk chills in the refrigerator

Our milk will be on local store shelves soon. I’ll post updates on the Hastings Dairy & Rowdy Cow Creamery website and Facebook page to let people know where this delicious milk can be purchased. 
The finished product; creamy, tasty fresh milk!
Check out the Rowdy Cow Creamery website for more information about our milk.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Milking Parlor Improvements

Dairy farms depend on a variety of equipment, most of which is used every day. One building on our farm that is full of essential equipment is the milking parlor where the cows are milked. It’s important to keep this facility and equipment in good working condition.

We recently had new take-offs installed in the milking parlor. These take-offs are important because they enable the milking machine to detach from the cow’s udder when she’s done milking. When the flow of milk from the cow slows, that sends a signal to a sensor in the milking machine indicating the cow is done milking. Then the automatic take-offs remove the milking machine from the udder. Each cow milks at her own pace, one might take 4 minutes while her herd mate could take 6 minutes. New take-offs allow us to meet the specific need of each individual cow.

The old take-off equipment is removed and the new ones are installed
The new take-off equipment is behind the silver panels with red lights
This new equipment has multiple benefits, it’s good for:
* Cows - ensuring maximum cow comfort and udder health when milking because the machine isn’t on the cow a second longer than it needs to be.
* Environment – this new equipment requires less water for cleaning.
* Staff - new equipment makes it easier on the staff milking cows.

Over the last few months, we’ve made some other improvements in the milking parlor. The floor heating system was repaired allowing warm water to circulate in the concrete flooring where the cows stand while milking. This system keeps the facility warmer for the cows and staff in the winter.
This concrete floor is heated for the comfort of the cows and staff

Light fixtures and bulbs were replaced because good lighting is important. This might seem like a small task, but it’s very difficult because the light fixtures in the milking parlor are about 25 feet above a solid concrete floor.
The bright lights shine in the milking parlor

All of these improvements and repairs must be done when there are no cows being milked, which makes these tasks more challenging. Cows are milked on our farm around the clock, with a one-hour break every seven hours to provide time to clean the facility and sanitize equipment. So these tasks must work around the milking schedule.

Improvements like these are made to maintain cow comfort and a good work environment. It’s worth it because the animals and people on our farm are vital to its success.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Resilient Ohioans Celebrate the Buckeyes National Championship

Congratulations to the National Champion Ohio State Buckeye football team! My husband, Lad, is an Ohio State alumni so we, along with every other Ohioan, watched the national championship game last night. What a great game!

Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott are heros in Ohio!
Lad with Brutus Buckeye at Ohio State a few summers ago
Our sons, Garrett and Jack, are OSU fans (at Lake Erie last summer)

It's a cold morning in snow covered northeast Ohio, but the sun in shinning. It's a glorious day to live in Ohio!

As the Buckeye football team proved, Ohioans are tough and resilient. We have to be to endure the snow, ice, and cold temperatures handed to us each winter. The first snow of the season came in mid-November. But weather in December was pretty mild, with almost no snow.

Last week, Mother Nature reminded us its winter by showering us with snow, ice and wind chills below zero. My boy’s school was closed three out of five days last week due to weather.

No matter the season our priority is the same, keeping animals comfortable and healthy.

Images from our dairy yesterday;

Our snow covered dairy farm from the road
The barn, tractor and milk tank are covered with snow
Dave spreads fresh straw in the maternity pen to keep the cows warm and dry
The calves stay warm in their hutches;
The animals grow a thicker hair coat during cold winter months
Relaxing in the warm straw
These heifers are content in their pen
Animals are protected from the harsh weather in the warm, dry barns
Every year, I share images and information about what its like on our dairy during the cold months. Check out some of my previous "winter" blogs;
Let it Snow – Preparing for Winter on our Farm

The excitement of the Buckeye's victory is keeping us warm today!

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