Happy Thanksgiving! This Thanksgiving don’t forget where your food comes from.
November 25, 2010 • 10:00 am 0
Happy Thanksgiving! This Thanksgiving don’t forget where your food comes from.
November 24, 2010 • 9:30 am 0
What are you thankful for? It’s easy to go through this holiday focusing on things like food, family, and friends, but it really does take a conscience effort to actually be thankful for what we have been given. We have been so blessed in the United States, and yet we rarely even notice the many blessings God has given to us.
You know the first Thanksgiving was really about food security. The pilgrims gave thanks to God for all the food they had been given that year. The first year the pilgrims arrived in the New World they nearly starved to death. The following year, the pilgrims were able to cultivate the land, and were saved from starvation by the bountiful harvest. As a result, the pilgrims had a day of thanksgiving to thank God for the food they had been given. Yet how many times have you been thankful for your food? I say we rarely ever give joyful thanks for the feasts we eat every thanksgiving.
In the United States, we seldom think about where our food comes from, and we never think about food shortages. We don’t have to worry about food supply issues, yet for many other nations in this world this is a daily anxiety. To prove this point, just go to Google and Wikipedia “famine.” The United States will not be on this list of affected countries. Our food supply in the United States is consistent and reliable thanks in part to modern technologies that have made farming more efficient.
It wasn’t always this way though in the United States either, during the Great Depression there were widespread food shortages due to the Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl was a period of severe dust storms that caused major ecological and agricultural damage to the American prairie from 1930 to 1936 (in some areas until 1940). The phenomenon was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops or other techniques to prevent erosion. Deep plowing of the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains had displaced the natural grasses that normally kept the soil in place and trapped moisture even during periods of drought and high winds.
During the drought of the 1930s, without natural anchors to keep the soil in place, the soil dried, turned to dust. No crops could be grown in the dusty soil. Millions of acres of farmland became useless, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes, and many people went hungry.
We are so fortunate to be able to eat every day, and not have to worry about whether there will be food or not available for our next meal. Food security is what has allowed our country to prosper. With a safe food supply, people do not have to work in agriculture anymore, but instead focus on developing new technologies like computers and the iPad.
So this thanksgiving, I am thankful for the food security we have in the United States. God has blessed us immensely; let’s not take it for granted this year, but seriously give thanks for our abundant food supply!
November 20, 2010 • 10:00 am 0
Milk Lines, Milk Tank, and Cleaning: how equipment is designed to minimize contamination.
**The Milk Tank**
The milking equipment is really designed to keep the milk clean once it leaves the cow. The milk flows from the milking machine to the milk tank in the milk barn by the means of stainless steel pipes. These pipes deliver the milk to the milk silo is a very clean way. Stainless steel is heavily used in any food manufacturing facility, and we use it on the dairy. The benefits of using stainless steel are that it doesn’t rust and it is bacteria resistant. With stainless steel pipes and tanks, there are few (if any) crevices where bacteria can grow and multiply. This is the main advantage of using stainless steel pipelines to move the milk.
The milk tank or silo is also stainless steel. The milk silo doesn’t hold the milk for long though. Milk tanker trucks come by the dairy daily to deliver the milk to where it needs to go. The milk silos or tanks have agitators inside to move the milk around. This keeps the different components in the milk from settling out. For example, milk fat is much lighter, and for this reason, the cream will float to the top naturally if there is no agitation.
When the cows are all milked, and the milk leaves the dairy, all of the equipment is cleaned and sanitized by means of our CIP system or Clean in Place system. This cleaning occurs twice a day on our dairy, and involves very little manual cleaning noting that the cleaning system is automated. The pipelines, and milk tank are flushed with water first, then flushed with soap to sanitize and kill bacteria, then flushed with acid to eliminate any type of grime or mineral deposits that may have built up in the line, and then a final rinse to make sure there is no soap or acid still in the lines. Cleaning the equipment is important to eliminate the growth of any bacteria that could grow in the milk.
The Chiller: slowing bacterial growth
**The Milk Chiller**
**The Temperature Recorder**
One way to eliminate the rapid growth of any bacteria that may have entered the milk is to cool the milk down. When traveling through the pipelines to the milk tank, the milk is chilled with the chiller to cool the milk down to 40 degrees. The federal law makes it mandatory that we cool the milk to 40 degrees immediately after milking. In order to guarantee that we meet federal standards, we chill our milk to 38 degrees.
The chiller is really a fascinating piece of equipment. Cold water that has been chilled passes through thin stainless steel plates one way pulling heat out of the milk as the milk flows on the opposite side. This energy transfer process chills the milk.
The temperature of the milk is monitored continuously to make sure the milk stays cool, and isn’t sitting at room temperature. The electronic temperature reader is shown in the above picture. The reader displays the current temperature, and also records the temperature on the round chart.
The purpose of chilling the milk immediately after milking is to slow down the growth of bacteria. Many bacteria are mesophillic meaning that they grow and multiply very quickly in warm temperatures. When milk leaves the cow, it is at room temperature and perfect for bacterial growth. The many nutrient in the milk make it a perfect medium for the growth of nasty bacteria. This is one of the primary reasons why you don’t want to leave you milk in the car for long periods of time, your milk will turn sour very fast this way. At cooler temperatures, many bacteria are eliminated, and growth of bacteria is significantly slowed. This is one of the ways we keep our milk wholesome.
Antibiotic Test: keeping milk guaranteed antibiotic-free
Before leaving the dairy, the milk is checked for antibiotics. Federal regulations say that we cannot ship any milk that is contaminated with antibiotics. All milk that is contaminated MUST be dumped, and is banned from human consumption.
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.
Milking doesn’t occur with a pail anymore, and there are quality control points on the dairy to make sure that the milk is kept clean and contaminate free. Cleaning the cow’s udders, sanitizing the milking equipment, chilling the milk, and testing for antibiotics are some of the major ways we ensure milk quality on the dairy farm.
I hope that these two postings help you understand the process milk goes through from the cow to the milk tank on the dairy, and the various measures that are taken to ensure milk quality. Dairymen pride themselves on producing a high quality product, but they take even more pride in producing a product that is safe, wholesome, and extremely clean.
November 15, 2010 • 10:00 am 1
Dairy Quality at the Farm
In a previous posting I noted that the U.S. dairy industry has some of the best technology in the world for ensuring that the dairy products you consume are safe and wholesome. Someone asked a very great question; what are some of the technologies and ways that dairies and creameries ensure product quality? It’s a great question, so I have decided to do the next few postings on this topic.
I will start first at the farm level, since it is most familiar to me as I have worked on the farm since I was little, and basically its where product quality starts. Then I will move on to the ways product quality is monitored at the creamery. The processes at the creamery are not as familiar to me, but I studied dairy processing in college so I got to learn procedures and technologies that are used to assure you that your milk and other dairy products are of the highest quality.
Milking doesn’t occur with a pail anymore. In fact there are quality control points on the dairy to make sure that the milk is kept clean and contaminate free. On the farm we have a variety of equipment and processes that we use to make sure the milk stays clean. We will start with the cows and follow the milk.
Sprinklers: an effective way to pre-clean the cow’s udder
**The sprinkler pen**
Before the cows enter the milk barn, the cows are held in the sprinkler pen. Basically the sprinkler pen is a large pen with sprinklers running through the pen. Don’t worry, the sprinkler heads are protected to keep the cows from hurting themselves. Once the group of cows enters the pen, the sprinklers are turned on for about 5 minutes. It’s basically one large group shower, and the cows are cleaned from any dirt or mud that they may have gotten into.
Sprinklers work great to pre-clean the udders before milking. Cleaning the udder is the primary purpose of the cow’s shower even though the cows thoroughly enjoy it, especially in the summer time. Getting the mud or dirt off of the udder with sprinklers is a great way to keep these environmental elements out of the milk.
However many dairymen, California dairymen especially, are looking at ways to eliminate the sprinkler pen on the dairy to minimize the environmental impact. Even though the sprinkler pen is highly effective at its purpose, it does use a lot of water. In efforts to use less water, many dairymen are trying to find ways to eliminate this pre-cleaning method, and replace it with more rigorous cleaning techniques in the milk barn. These new techniques may in fact be more labor intensive, but saving water is a big deal in California where water is becoming a scarce commodity.
**The Milk Barn during clean-up**
**The infamous teat dipper and cloth towel **
After the cows exit the sprinkler pen, they enter the milk barn. The cows enter the milk barn to be milked, but first they must be cleaned. Milking the cow involves a rigorous cleaning procedure to kill bacteria and eliminate the chance of any dirt from entering the milk at the time the cows are milked. All cows are treated the same, and the milking procedures must be followed accurately when milking all the cows.
To start, the cow’s teats are dipped into an antibacterial sanitizer that kills bacteria, and moisturizes the cow’s teats to keep them soft. After the teats are dipped, the teats are cleaned with clean towels. The towels are not used on different cows. One or two clean towels per cow, then they are thrown in the laundry bin. We cannot reuse towels on cows because that would increase the risk of spreading bacteria from cow to cow.
The towels are washed in our heavy duty washing machines. Before using towels, we used to use paper towels to clean the cows. The paper towels were much easier to use, you clean a cow then throw them away. However the paper towels created a lot of waste on our dairy. In efforts to make our operation more environmentally friendly, we now use reusable cloth towels. The cloth towels take a bit more labor on our operation, but we feel deep satisfaction in small efforts as these to be environmentally friendly when possible. Many dairymen now use cloth towels instead of paper towels. In fact I don’t think I know any dairymen still using paper towels.
Once the udder is clean, the milker strips the teat. Stripping basically means that the milkers milk the teat once or twice to make sure there is no infection in the cow’s udder. If the milk has a few small flakes or curds, the cow may have an infection called mastitis. These cows are sent to the hospital pen so they can receive treatment to help them fight off their infection. The infection could get very serious if not treated. Milk from mastitic cows is of very low quality; therefore it is vital that these cows are detected. Stripping the teats, helps the milkers detect any cows that may have come down with and infection that could affect milk quality, and also affect the health and well-being of the cow.
Many people think that there is puss in the milk. This is completely false, and there is absolutely no merit to this claim. Mastitis is a bacterial infection that affects the mammary glands in the cow. When the cow fights the infection, white blood cells are killed fighting the infection and end up in the milk. Mastitic cows are removed from the herd to reduce the amount of cells that get in the milk to keep the milk clean. Even so, there are still cells that get into the milk from perfectly healthy cows. These cells are not dangerous, but they can greatly affect the quality of the milk. The amount of cells in the milk can be measured, and the dairy industry commonly refers to this measurement as the Somatic Cell Count (SCC). Milk quality is measured by the amount of cells in the milk. Federal regulations state that milk cannot have a SCC over 750,000. California regulations are much more stringent with that level being a SCC or 500,000. For many dairies this is very easy to achieve, and many dairies have a SCC under 200,000. There is no puss in milk though, and where this idea came from is beyond me.
Once the teat is properly sanitized, cleaned, and stripped, the milk machines are attached, and the milking takes place. When the cow is finished milking, the machine automatically detaches. The milkers use a different teat dip on the teats. This final teat dip protects the teats from any environmental bacteria that could enter the udder after milking. This is important because after the milking the milk channel in the teat is open, and bacteria can freely enter the udder and cause infection. For this reason the dip is administered to protect the cow’s udder from future infections that could occur. It also softens and moisturizes the cow’s teats.
Milking procedures are at the very foundation of milk quality. It is important that each cow’s udder and teats are properly cleaned and sanitized to prevent environmental contaminations that could occur during milking.
The Backflush: stopping bacterial transmissions
After the machines are done milking the cow, they are sanitized with the backflush. The backflush is basically what you think it is; a flush of water that comes through the machines to clean them. The water has ozone in it to basically suffocate any bacteria that may have gotten in the line. The backflush also helps stop the transmission of disease from cow to cow. After the machine is used by a cow, it is reused on the next cow that comes in the barn. This would make transmitting bacteria very easy if there was no backflush to eliminate bacteria. This is a highly effective way to sanitize machines before they milk the next cows.