Crazy Moos

Moosworthy Information Straight from the Dairy!

Antibiotics in my Milk?


Many people are worried that there are antibiotics in their milk. It’s an important issue, and I can understand peoples fear. If you continually take antibiotics, you can build immunity, and the antibiotic’s effectiveness goes down significantly. That’s why it is imperative that there cannot be antibiotics in our milk, so we can use antibiotics when we need them! 

I decided to write this to help people understand the measures we take on our dairy to ensure a high quality product. I can say confidently that there are no antibiotics in any milk because it’s illegal for antibiotics to be in the milk.


It’s Illegal

In fact, it is illegal to have antibiotics in the milk! Every milk truck that leaves our dairy is tested to ensure there are no antibiotics in the milk. Then when the milk gets to the milk processing plant, the milk is checked again to ensure there are no antibiotics in the milk. If milk is contaminated with antibiotics, the entire load must be thrown away.

Dairies that send milk to their creamery with antibiotics are penalized, and if milk is sent with antibiotics more than 3 times, the dairy can lose their license to produce milk. This ensures that dairies make it a priority to make sure no milk they are sending has antibiotics.


On our Dairy


  The Hospital Pen

Besides losing our license to produce milk, we also suffer financially if antibiotics get in the milk. Milk with antibiotics MUST be dumped, and that’s milk that we don’t get paid for. Because of all the negative consequences of having antibiotics in the milk, we have set up strict quality control measures to make sure our milk remains antibiotic free.

We use antibiotics on our farm to help our animals recover when they get sick. When the cows and calves get sick, we have a few different antibiotics on hand that can be administered to help them feel better.

When a cow is diagnosed with an illness, she is moved to the hospital pen, and separated from the rest of the herd. Yes, there is a hospital at our dairy! The cow is then given the appropriate medicine. Our veterinarian also comes once a week to diagnose certain animals, and prescribe treatment.

All of the sick cows receiving treatment are separated from the rest of their herd mates and milked in a different milk barn.

On our dairy, we have 2 milk barns; the old barn my grandpa started with, and our newer barn we built later. So all of the sick cows get milked in the old barn, and all of the milk from the sick cows gets thrown away. It’s a great way for us to keep these two groups separate. All of the milking equipment and milk pipelines are separate from the barn where we milk all of our healthy cows.


My Sister Entering Health Records Into the Computer

When cows are treated, we document the treatment in our computer records. When the cows are better and ready to move back with the rest of their friends, we hold them a bit longer in the hospital pen. Some antibiotics when given to the cow can be transmitted into the milk, so each antibiotic has a withholding period. The withholding time is the amount of time needed before there is no drug residue in the milk.

After the cows is better, and they have been in the hospital long enough to have no drug residue in the milk, we move them out. But when we move them out, we use an antibiotic test that checks the milk for antibiotics. If the test is positive for drug residue, the cows must stay in the hospital pen. Only when we get a negative test for antibiotics do we move them out of the hospital.

Good record keeping can keep antibiotics from getting into the milk, but we use the antibiotic test as well to make sure we didn’t make a mistake! It’s basic quality control.


At the Creamery


All milk when it arrives at the creamery MUST be tested for antibiotics. It is mandated by law that each truckload must be tested for antibiotics. If antibiotics are detected in any truckload of milk, the milk must be dumped.

Besides antibiotics in the milk being illegal, processors have motivation to have antibiotic free milk. When making cheese, yogurt, and other cultured dairy products, the bacteria culture that makes the products can be inhibited from growing. If the bacteria don’t grow, you can’t make cheese, yogurt, or other dairy products! Because of this fact, cheese makers and other dairy processors are vigilant in keeping antibiotics out of the milk.


Organic vs. Conventional

When people talk about the differences between organic and conventional dairy farming, many people feel that organic is a “healthier choice” because no antibiotics are used on the organic dairy. But conventional dairies do produce milk without antibiotics too; it’s just a difference of management practices.

Organic dairy farms are prohibited from using antibiotics on their farms. I feel that organic dairies are very cruel towards the animals in this way as there is medicine to help ease their suffering and help them recover faster. Withholding antibiotics from the sick animals only prolongs suffering and can even result in death if they are not treated.

Put it this way, you get sick and the doctor tells you he has the cure, and you could be better in a few days if he gives it to you. But the doctor notes that you’re at a different hospital that believes everyone else in the world would be better off if you didn’t take the antibiotics, so they won’t let you take the medicine.

Not administering any antibiotics is a way to prevent any antibiotics from getting into your milk, but you can use antibiotics responsibly on dairy cows and not have any antibiotics in the milk as well.  

I am not against organic dairies; in fact I have many friends who have organic dairies. But people must remember that organic milk is not necessarily better for you; it’s just a difference of management practices that are being used on the dairies.


Bottom Line


Three take facts to take away: antibiotics are used to keep cows healthy, antibiotics can be used responsibly, and they are kept out of the milk we drink. Consumers can rest assured knowing that dairies take pride in producing high quality milk that is free of antibiotics.

It is illegal for dairies to have antibiotics in the milk, and this coupled with the potential financial loss of having antibiotics in the milk makes it a priority for dairymen to keep contaminates such as antibiotics out of the milk.

On our dairy, we have put into place a various quality control measures to make sure we do not have any antibiotics in our milk (i.e. separate pen, computer records, and antibiotics test), and many other dairies have the exact same controls in place.

It’s important that antibiotics don’t get in the milk, and we all can agree on this. But it’s also important that people understand the management practices we have put into place to keep antibiotics out of the milk at the dairy. I hope that this posting gives milk drinkers everywhere more insight to what we do at the dairy, and the pride we take in producing milk that is guaranteed antibiotic-free!



Filed under: Dairy, Dairy Issues, Dairy Products, , , , ,

11 Responses

  1. Great blog. Being in a dairy family, myself, I know it is SO important to get the correct information out there. It’s amazing to me what people still believe! Good job, nicely written.

  2. joeydr says:

    Your site is amazing! You have tons of great information!!!

  3. […] In order to ensure our milk is free of antibiotic free, we use a simple test that can detect the presence of antibiotics. This test is used frequently on our dairy, as this is a very important issue. Read my posting on antibiotics here. […]

  4. Dana DeJong says:

    What a great article I am going to print it out to hand to my customers. We own a small dairy in Wildomar ca and we do everything, milk the cows. process the milk and sell it from our store. My grandfather came from Holland and started the dairy in 1958 with 7 kids and 1 cow.I do tours for the public and some of the crazy ideas people have on what we do to our milk. You are doing a great job on properlly educating people.
    Dana DeJong

    • Hi Dana,
      Thanks for the encouragement! Thats cool that you do your own processing on your dairy. Hopefully someday we can get something going on our dairy, thats my goal anyways.

      It sounds like your families story is pretty similar to my families. My opa came from Holland in the 50’s too, and started working on other dairies. After awhile was able to start milking his own cows, and slowly built our operation to its current size.

      Yes, i’ve found there is a lot of misinformation on the web so hopefully my blog can help correct the information out there. I can’t believe that people actually believe that there is antibiotics in their milk, especially since its illegal. I am still supprised that this has been my number one blog posting!

  5. ralph says:

    I think your a way abo ve average dairyman, I alos wish you would not say milkis tested at the palnt ( which ist is) and therefore free of antibiotics. It is only tested for 4 of 6 beta lactams ( penicillin group) it is not tested for sulfa drugs, tetracyclines, aminoglycosides etc nor is it check for the NSAID Flunixin With over 80 drugs availabe to a dairyperson only 4 ar echecked for?? Thas kind of weird

    • Ralph, thanks for commenting on my blog. I really do appreciate the feedback.

      I disagree with you though, we are an average dairy, and many other dairies have the same protocols in place to protect their milk from being contaminated by antibiotics. I know because I have visited many other dairies, and talked with them about management practices they use.

      You can say you wish I didn’t say milk is tested at the plant, but it doesn’t change the truth. Milk is tested at the dairy plant and is required by law to be tested. It is illegal to ship milk from the farm that has been contaminated with antibiotics. The creameries also test the milk because it’s in their best interest. You can’t make cheese and other dairy products from milk contaminated with antibiotics. The cheese cultures or bacteria won’t grow in contaminated milk.

      You make a good point though. The milk test on our dairy only tests for beta-lactam drugs or the penicillin group of antibiotics. But there are other tests available to test for the other drug groups. These other tests are used at the creameries though.

      As I mentioned in this article, different antibiotics have different withholding periods. Penicillin’s stay in the cows system the longest so testing for only beta-lactam drugs works because other drugs are out of the cows system before the penicillin. Also testing beta-lactam type antibiotics isn’t just testing for 4 different drugs, but in fact it covers all penicillin type medicines. Penicillin is the most common type of antibiotic.

      You make it sound like dairy farms are shooting their cows up with many different antibiotics, but that’s really not the case. Antibiotics at the farm level are heavily regulated, probably much more so than drugs for human use. In order to purchase antibiotics, you must have a script from your veterinarian so you can’t just go out and purchase large quantities. Then many drugs are restricted to veterinarian use only. Also just because drugs are available does not necessarily mean they are being used. You listed aminoglycosides and they are not even being used.

      To be honest, it’s really in our best interest to use the least amount of antibiotics on the dairy as possible. Drugs are ridiculously expensive, and I’m sure you’ve noticed this when you buy medicine at the pharmacy. On our dairy, we only use a handful of different medicines, and only use them when absolutely necessary.

      Antibiotics are necessary to treat sick animals, and it’s inhumane not to use modern technology to help alleviate their suffering and help get them better. But I can assure you, dairies are being responsible and sensible when it comes to using antibiotics on the dairy. I hope this clears up your confusion Ralph!

  6. bill says:

    Ilove dairy folk. I grew up on a dairy but the milk marketing coops are perpetrating a great hoax on milk consumers. Milk is not antibiotic free, no one can say that as it is not tested for other than 4 of 6 beta lactams. (the penicilllin group) There are many drugs not tested for , such as tetracyclines, sulfonomides, flunixin, macrolides, aminoglycosides etc.

    Please see, then NEWS AND VIEWS THEN, HEADLINE news. look at the two articles 3 pages into the great number of articles dated January 13th & JNUARY 7 Note the links to FDA and the obtuseness of the northeast Ag commissioners. This does not do a good dairyman any favors. Good dairymen like you are needed the poor ones should go because they give you a very bad name.

    • Bill,

      If you grew up on a dairy farm, you should understand that there aren’t antibiotics in milk. Its illegal and the milk is thoroughly tested for antibiotic contamination. Many drugs including Tetracyclines are not used on lactating cows (cows that are producing milk).

      I agree with you though Bill on your last point. Bad dairy farmers can damage the trust that consumers place in us producing their food so it’s good that they are forced out. Fortunately there are economic repercussions for farms that are not operating ethically though so they will not be in business for long.

      For example, if a dairy farm is being run poorly and neglects monitoring milk quality and antibiotics do end up in the milk, the dairy processing plant will discover the contamination and dump the entire truckload of milk. In addition, this contamination event will be reported to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, CDFA, which will go on their record. So the operation will not be paid for an entire truckload of milk, and if antibiotic contamination is discovered 2 more times CDFA will take away their license to produce milk. So essentially they will lose money and be shut down if they continue their neglect.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Dana says:

        Why is everyone so concerned with antibiotics in the milk? Honestly why would a dairy man want to put antiobiotics in the milk what purpose would it serve. When we humans get sick we go to the doctors and get medicine so we are not in pain and can get better. If one of our cows is sick we give it medicine to get better and you milk it in a separate tank and you dispose of the milk. Common sense, you think we won’t pour out that little bit of milk because it is going to make us so much money. It’s not worth the price you will pay if you get caught with antibiotics in your milk. Im sure you can find plenty of other things people do to our food supply than worrying about antiobiotics in your milk cause there is none.

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Crazy Moos

About Crazy Moos

Welcome to the Crazy Moos blog! Crazy Moos is a play on words, basically trying to create a fun environment (crazy) for dairy news (moos). The overall goal of this blog is to communicate “moosworthy information” (newsworthy information) about the dairy industry and important happening on the dairy farm. Hopefully this blog will help people learn about various aspects of the dairy industry and what happens on the dairy farm. Visit regularly for new blog postings!

About Me

I am a 3rd generation dairyman in California, and our dairy farm really is a reflection of the American dream. My grandfather came to America from Europe after World War II in search of greater opportunities, and a safer place to raise a family. He came to America with hardly anything except his exceptional appreciation for hard work. My grandpa after a few years was able to start his own dairy farm and start producing high quality, nutritious milk. In the 70’s, he moved the operation to a more remote area (our current location), and started growing the herd.

Today, I am actively taking part in the farms daily responsibilities. I’m well qualified to be in the dairy industry, and consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the dairy industry having just graduating college with a degrees in dairy science, and dairy processing.

Many people today believe that the dairy industry has been taken over by large corporate farms, but a recent study done shows that most dairies are family owned. In fact, 99% of dairy farms in California are family owned and operated. My whole family is involved on the dairy. My sisters are caretakers of the baby calves, and we guys take care of the cows. There are eight kids in our family, so the dairy is definitely a family affair!

Milk is one of the world’s most nutritious natural products. So many people today are forgetting that milk is filled with many different nutrients, all combined to work in synergy together to maximize the body’s absorption of these nutrients. It’s the perfect blend of nutrients, in nature’s most natural product.

Milk, it’s a natural product, that’s naturally good for you!

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