Quality Reigns Here

April 5, 2009 07:00 PM

*Extended comments are highlighted in blue.

Mark Rodgers
West Glover, Vt.
With a degree in dairy food technology from the University of Vermont and a no-excuses attitude, we make quality milk the rule. My reply when people ask how we make such high-quality milk is, "If it isn't good enough for me to drink, it isn't good enough to go in the tank.”

We have been recognized by our milk cooperative and the state of Vermont for consistently making high-quality milk for many years. In seven of the past 15 years, we have had the highest-quality milk in our co-op's marketing region, and in two other years we were second. In 2007, we received the Vermont award for lowest pasteurized count.

Here's how we do it: We start with healthy cows. We keep them clean, dry and comfortable. Our freestalls are foam-padded with a rubber cushion cover that's cleaned and bedded twice daily with kiln-dried sawdust. Automatic hydraulic scrapers clean the rubber-covered alleys at least eight times daily. When cows enter the parlor, they are brushed off, iodine-foam predipped, stripped, dried with a clean, dry microfiber towel and the machine applied. Takeoffs are set to remove at 1.5 lb./minute. Cows are postdipped with the same iodine foam as the predip before they return to fresh, clean stalls.

At the first sign of mastitis, the quarter is sampled. (I have not yet set up my own lab, but will soon since our local lab recently discontinued service.) The quarter is treated with Pirsue or Spectramast once daily for seven days. Systemic therapy is rarely necessary but is used if a cow appears sick or has a fever. Oxytocin is also used if necessary to obtain a complete milkout.

Cows identified as culls for repro or any other reasons are not treated; they are culled immediately. Otherwise sound cows are given three strikes and they are out. If a quarter flares for a third time, the cow is culled or the quarter is killed and she becomes three-quartered. Cows identified with Staph. aureus do not get three chances. After the first treatment protocol, a re-infected quarter will cause one of the following: the quarter is dried off, the cow is dried off and treated to cure the Staph., or the cow is culled, based on her value and stage of lactation.

All cows are dry treated with Tomorrow and sealed with Orbeseal. Cows with Staph. are dry treated with Pirsue in the affected quarter. First-lactation cows have 60 days dry; all others are scheduled for 45.

Our first 10 samples in March averaged 74,000 DMSCC, 1,000 raw, 10 pasteurized, and 1,000 preliminary incubation with 187 cows milking and two being treated.

The milk surplus in this country could be eliminated immediately if we demanded a legal limit on somatic cells of 400,000 and low-quality milk was refused by milk processors.

Rodger's February Prices  
Milk (4.1% bf, 3.17% prt): $14.99/cwt.
Cull cows: $75/cwt.
Springing heifers: $1,700/head
Alfalfa hay: $325/ton if available
Whole cottonseed: $299/ton
Ground corn: $169/ton

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