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How can I tell the difference between high quality milk and low quality milk from a dairy cow?  RSS feed

 
Scott Fike
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How can I tell the difference between high quality milk and low quality milk from a dairy cow?
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Travis Johnson
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You are what you eat; that is a well known mantra and it applies to dairy cows as well. Since they (as well as any mammal) only gives quality milk when all their nutrition needs are met, you get good milk by giving your dairy cows high quality feed. It does not have to be grain as some insist, that is merely a short cut to get the end result needed, complete nutrition. With feed rations or hay that has been tested, and vitimins and minerals accounted for, as well as roughage and energy needs, high quality milk will follow.

On our dairy farm, a commercial dairy farm; high quality milk meant a low bacteria count in the milk and high protein. Honestly I would be more concerned about a low bacteria count rather then high protein content. It gets a lot of attention because commercial producers are paid premiums because creameries sell off the protein to energy drink companies for increased profits. For a homesteader or family cow, it really is nothing to strive for, you are going to get plenty of protein if you feed high quality feed.

Instead I would concentrate on making sure your milking is sanitary. We achieved gold star status after many years, not by doing one thing right, but a lot of little things well. Invest in 7% surgical grade iodine to clean the teats before milking. Let it sit for at least a minute to kill the bacteria. Clean off the teat with a single paper towel and NEVER go to another teat, or another cow after it has been touched, that spreads bacteria. Strip the teat first to ensure there is no mastitis in that quarter. Best to shoot a few squirts on the ground then to let bacteria go in the tank or into the milk pail. After milking, strip her quarters again. Apply iodine again after milking so that her teats are protected. And of course limit the use of water in the parlor or stall where the cow is milked. It seems counter intuitive, but using lots of water spreads bacteria better. Dry weep as much manure, feed and grain as you can up.

The last mantra I will leave you with is often a difficult one for homesteaders and family cows to deal with, but "it is just a guess unless you test", holds true as well. You just don't know what you got unless you test your milk from time to time. On a commercial farm it is ever tank load of milk. But over the years the milk inspectors have changed from heavy hands and fines, to working with farmers to get the numbers down. It is all about food safety and the goal is the same for both inspector and farmer. Call your local milk board and get their input. A lot of help and education is out there for homesteaders and family cows. They want people to know how to derive safe milk for themselves.



 
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