Secrets of Award-Winning Milk

Published on: 14:40PM Jun 25, 2010

By Brad and Mark Crandall

The Crandall brothers milk 260 cows on their fifth-generation farm near Battle Creek, Mich.

Milk quality is a top priority at Crandall Dairy Farms LLC. The quality of the end product we produce, milk, may be the best way to evaluate our overall success. High-quality milk can only come from healthy cows and can only be harvested by the best of people.

Controlling mastitis is crucial to our success. Mastitis is the ultimate symptom of a wide range of larger problems. Every aspect of cow health and management can be directly tied to the quality of the milk our cows produce. Any hole in the management system can lead to either short- or long-term problems with mastitis and overall udder health.

Cow comfort is key. We know stress on our animals will have negative consequences. Clean, dry, well-ventilated housing and clean water fountains are where we start.

Owners and employees understand that working to provide the best possible environment for our cows will result in fewer cases of mastitis, fewer sick cows and more milk quality premiums.

Our farm has earned two consecutive Gold Quality awards from the Michigan Milk Producers Association for averaging less than a 100,000 somatic cell count (SCC) all 12 months. We are below 75,000 SCC so far for 2010.

As with most farms, we have gradually improved our milk quality over many years by implementing many new ideas and technologies. Our primary focus is udder health. So much is involved: genetics, farm cleanliness, milking equipment performance, milking procedure, testing cows individually and, most importantly, the people who bring it all together.

With a high-producing herd (28,500-lb. rolling herd average), we milk 3x a day to reduce stress on udders. We have worked to genetically improve the udders of our cows for many years.

Our cows lie in sand-bedded freestalls that are maintained daily and bedded weekly. A stall groomer helps lower SCC and adds to comfort. The groomer makes it easy to smooth over stalls that are dug down or piled up, and stirs the sand to limit bacterial growth. Our dry-cow stalls are also an area where this is beneficial when tests show it takes several weeks for the teat end to fully close.

We predip cows with a 1% iodine dip, prestrip all cows and dry teats with microfiber towels. One thing we do differently than most farms is postdip year-round with Arctic Winter teat dip. Despite the higher cost of this dip, we are convinced it does wonders for teat-end health. We dry-treat all cows and also use Orbeseal teat sealant.

Mastitis control is such a comprehensive battle that the level of success our farm has attained is something we are very proud of.