Thursday, January 27, 2011

Antibiotics and Milk

testing milk

There are always people who worry about antibiotics in the food supply, and they should when it is warranted. Recently the FDA has decided it wants to inspect milk for more antibiotics.  This is in itself sounds scary, as if dairy farmers are pumping up cows with drugs and not getting caught.  The truth is much different.

Dairy farmers do not want to give antibiotics at all.  That goes for plain and organic varieties.  If you need to give any drug it probably means the animal is sick, producing less milk, and will be costing money for treatment and lost revenue.  That said, animals, like people, get sick.  Sometimes you can isolate a cow, give her plenty of rest and extra attention and she will get better on her own.  Other times, she may need medicine, like antibiotics, to get well.

On our farm we only give antibiotics when a cow needs them to be well.  When we treat a cow that is giving milk we separate the animal from the main herd and mark her so we know that her milk should not be put in the milk tank.  We then throw her milk away for the designated withdrawal time for the drug.  Before we mix her milk in with the other cows' we check it with an antibiotic test kit on the farm to make sure it has completely left her system.  If she still checks positive for antibiotics, we will continue to discard her milk until it is clean.

Before the milk truck driver picks up our milk he takes a sample of it to take to a lab for testing.  When he takes the load to the milk plant they, too, will take a sample of it and check it for antibiotics.  If the load contains any residue then the load is turned down.  If the sample taken from the milk on your farm was the bad milk, then you will be responsible for that entire load.  I would not want to pay for an entire load of milk.  I also know some farmers that use the on farm test kit to check every tank of their milk before they even allow the milk truck driver to load it.

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