Last week, when we received our monthly advance check (about 1/3 of our monthly milk sales) from our cooperative, we also received a letter from the general manager of our creamery. Upon reading this letter, I was even more confident in our choice to sell our milk to our creamery. We ship our milk to First District Association, Litchfield MN. FDA makes so many great products. Cheese is their primary product, but FDA also ships numerous pounds of dry milk and milk protein products. We have great pride in FDA products and what FDA does for their patrons (us). Because FDA markets these products, some of which are exported, we are held to higher standards of quality. The letter I read re-enforced this concept, in addition to encouraging further improvements in quality.
Quality in milk is measured by using a couple different counts. One count is a common bacteria count which tells us how clean the milk is, and the equipment that the milk flows through. The lower the count, the better the milk and the higher level of cleanliness of the equipment that handles the milk. 100,000 is the Federal limit for this count, over that number and you cannot sell your milk for consumption. At Orange Patch Dairy, we commonly have bacteria counts at about 5,000. This is a very low number, and we are very proud to be able to maintain that. It means that our cows are healthy and our equipment is clean.
We also use SCC (somatic cell count) as a measure of quality and cow health. SCC is a measurement of the number of white blood cells that are in milk. Because milk is made in a mammal, it is normal to have some white blood cells, however higher levels of SCC indicate cow health issues. The federal government regulates this measure as well. SCC's over 750,000 make milk illegal for comsumption. At Orange Patch Dairy, we strive to keep our SCC below 200,000 everyday. For the month of January, we averaged about 145,000. We use procedures while milking to insure healthy udders, maintain our equipment, and house our cows in a clean environment.
Our cooperative, FDA, rewards us for good quality milk by paying us a premium. The letter we received announced that FDA will further reward dairy farmers that strive to increase the quality of the milk that they produced. FDA also announced that they put into place penalties (financial fines) for dairy farmers that do not comply with the new regulations. Penalties for milk start at 300,000 SCC, a level much lower than the federal level, but a level that is more acceptable to the customers that FDA exports to. We support this decision to increase milk quality, consumers demand it and it's a change that's worth making.
Healthy and happy cows make safe wholesome, and nutritious milk, and that's a concept we can all support!