Milk: Keeping It Clean


A few weeks ago, The Bullvine posted an interesting article about how milk is losing it’s market share. It also pointed out something seemingly obvious that I had never really thought about. Dairy farmers love to talk about their cows, but we really don’t spend much time talking about milk. Milk is what dairying is really all about.

As farmers, we know that happy healthy cows are the best way to get the best quality milk, but we forget that to the average person that may not be an obvious thought. We love talking about our cows, but they aren’t for sale – our milk is!

There’s lots of good info out there about how awesome milk is, nutritionally speaking, but maybe you don’t know what role we as farmers play in that.

What do we do to make sure your milk is safe and nutritious?

First, we take good care of our cows! It starts there. I feel like a broken record, but it’s the facts. Healthy cows give higher quality milk. They also typically give more milk, so it’s a win-win. Our milking procedure includes dipping the cows teats with a liquid that cleans them and lets them know to let their milk down. Then, when they/re done milking, we dip their teats with another liquid that coats the teat and helps protect them from infection between milkings.

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Milk goes from the cow’s udder through a hose, into a stainless steel pipeline.

Besides taking care of the cows, we keep the equipment clean. The milk goes from the teat through a hose into a stainless steel pipeline. The receiver pump then sends it through another pipe into the room next door, through a filter, and into our stainless steel bulk tank. There it waits for the milk hauler to come and take it to the processing plant, which he does every other day.

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Milk in the bulk tank. The tank keeps the milk between 38-40 degrees, which is why you can see there is condensation. The thing going down into the milk is the agitator, which keeps all the cream from separating and rising to the top.

After each milking we wash each milk unit with hot water. Next we “rinse the line”, which uses water to flush out any milk that stayed in the pipes. We then “wash the line”. We use hot water with soap and then acid to get everything really clean. A pump runs the wash through all of the pipes, hoses, and milking units (everything milk touches before it gets to the tank) for several cycles. After the milk hauler pumps the milk from our tank into his truck, he sets a washer in the tank and turns it on. The tank washer system also uses both soap and acid to deep clean the inside of the bulk tank before the next milking.

When for some reason something isn’t clean, we will see a spike in our bacteria count. We get data on every load of milk the hauler picks up, usually within a few days. We check this data regularly (several times a week), and when we see an issue, we identify and fix the problem as quickly as possible. Usually we just need to adjust our tank washer, which can be accomplished almost immediately.

Besides being the right thing to do, the price we get paid is dependent on the quality of the milk, so we take our cleaning procedures very seriously and make sure that our employees do as well.

I realized as I started writing this post, that there’s quite a bit to be said about milk. I started here with what I know best, and I plan to follow up with some additional, related posts. After all, milk is what it’s really all about.

Update: As promised, I wrote a second post about milk that you can find here!

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