Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Healthy Cows = Quality Milk

Healthy cows produce high quality milk. So it’s important to keep our cows, heifers and calves healthy. This starts with a balanced diet of good feed, access to fresh water and comfortable housing.

I take my sons to the pediatrician for vaccinations to keep them healthy. We do the same for our animals. We follow a vaccination protocol to protect our cattle from disease and illness. Calves are vaccinated twice during their first year of life. Heifers and cows are vaccinated during specific stages of production. For example, when they’re getting ready to have a calf or when they are ending their annual milk production cycle and will be dry (not produce milk) for approximately two months.

The vaccines we administer to calves

Our vaccination protocol was developed with our veterinarian for the purpose of optimal animal health. Even with a healthy diet, comfortable housing and an effective vaccination program, cows sometimes get sick. It’s up to us as dairy producers to monitor herd health in order to recognize and treat illness. Signs of illness may include change in hair coat, decreased milk production, droopy ears, dull eyes, decrease in appetite or high temperature. 

Lad checking the cows
The most common milk cow illness is mastitis. Mastitis occurs when the udder becomes inflamed because white blood cells are released into the mammary gland in response to bacteria in the teat canal. These cows are placed in the hospital pen and treated. The second most common reason for cows to visit the hospital is retained placenta which is a failure of the cow to expel fetal membranes (afterbirth) within 12 hours after giving birth to a calf. Other less common herd health issues include pneumonia, a sore foot, or upset stomach.

When a milk cow goes to the hospital pen, she continues to be milked each day however her milk is dumped. When cows are being treated with an antibiotic, their milk can’t be sold for human consumption. We must follow the withhold instructions of each medication to insure milk from a treated cow doesn’t enter the bulk tank with healthy cow’s milk.

Milk is stored in this tank until the milk truck arrives to pick it up
If we make a mistake and the milk of one treated cow goes into our 4,000 gallon milk tank, that entire load will test positive for antibiotics and will be rejected by the milk processing plant. We would be responsible for disposing of the milk and not be paid for our milk that day. Every load of milk from every dairy across the country is tested for antibiotic residue and disposed of if it tests positive.

It’s a common misconception that only milk in cartons labeled “antibiotic-free” don’t contain antibiotics. The fact is ALL milk must be tested free of antibiotics before it can be sold for human consumption.

Our goal is to keep our cows healthy and comfortable while producing a quality product you can feel good about serving your family.

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