In addition to testing our milk every 6-8 weeks, when we have a cow freshen like Buttercream did 10 days ago we also send that cow’s milk to the lab before we make it available to our cow share owners. It took about 5 days for her milk to fully transition from colostrum to whole milk, at which point we sent her milk to AntelBio, a lab on Michigan State University’s campus for testing. We just received her results today and her milk is completely clean to send out!
At AntelBio, we are able to run a Complete 16 lab test which looks for both pathogens that enter the milk from the environment and bacteria that are present within the cow herself. They specifically test for low, medium and high levels of the following pathogens potentially present in the milk:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Staphylococcus species
- Streptococcus agalactiae
- Streptococcus dysgalactiae
- Streptococcus uberis
- Escherichia coli
- Corynebacterium bovis
- Enterococcus faecalis & faecium
- Klebsiella pneumoniae & oxytoca
- Serratia marcescens
- Arcanobacterium pyogenes & Peptostreptococcus indolicus
- Staphylococcal beta-lactamase gene
- Mycoplasma bovis
- Mycoplasma species
- Prototheca species
Buttercream’s results came back completely negative for the presence of any of these pathogens. We also tested for her Somatic Cell Count, which looks at the cow’s white blood cell count. This is the best indication of a potential infection in the animal and we prefer to see levels less than 275,000 per mL. Somatic Cell Count is also the best indicator of milk quality – from its ability to keep fresh for longer periods of time, how good it tastes and how well it can be made into other dairy products. Buttercream’s SCC came back at 174,000 which is well within the healthy range and we’re especially happy with this since recently freshened cows can show higher levels of SCC. Cows that have recently calved, have exposed their reproductive system to potential pathogens in the environment through the birth process causing a higher SCC. We anticipate seeing her Somatic cell count drop even further over the next month to between 95,000 and 150,000, which is where our cows generally score.
In the State of Michigan, SCC levels for Grade A milk must be less than 1,000,000 per ML – levels this high guarantee that the milk is from cows with mastitis infection and other pathogens. Here is more info on the State of Michigan’s required levels for Grade A dairies (which we are not). http://www.michigan.gov/
In addition to testing Buttercream’s milk, we looked at the Somatic Cell Count for both Elsie and Millie, our other two lactating cows. Elsie’s SCC was 99,000 and Millie’s SCC was 145,000. Both cows are well within the healthy range and should have excellent milk quality and shelf life. We are very happy with these numbers, especially considering that we are in the depths of winter.
Winter always poses challenges, but with the recent wet and warm weather it requires a lot of work to maintain clean, dry beds with proper manure removal, both of which are important for maintaining the health of our herd. We are refining our sanitation of the milk equipment, using dairy acid more frequently, and using higher water temperatures to ensure pathogens have little chance of survival on the food-grade equipment. We are also revising our cooling process to be more consistent and efficient at chilling our milk to 34 degrees F (from approx. 101 degrees when it leaves the cow) as quickly as possible- this ensures the most consistent flavor of the milk, in addition to making the milk a less hospitable environment for bacteria to flourish.
If you ever notice an “off” flavor in your milk. please contact up to let us know so we can address the potential problem promptly. We take safety and sanitation very seriously so any and all feedback is greatly appreciated. With raw milk, and especially in winter, we always tell people “when in doubt, pour it out.” The easiest ways for us to maintain a consistent product is to keep our dairy clean and neat, our cows healthy, and to try keep their feed as consistent as possible. That being said, while the cows are on hay for the winter they may have varying degrees of cream or taste to there milk depending on the quality and composition of each hay bale they get day-to-day. While all of our hay is 2nd cutting Alfalfa/Timothy/grass mix, some have more or less of each particular “ingredient” depending on where in the field that particular bale was cut from.
We are planning to have the entire herd’s milk tested again in early January, to ensure that we are maintaining good hygienic milking practices and equipment. With the added messiness of winter, we are trying to keep a close eye on herd health and sanitation. We will publish these as soon as the results come in.
The last “just for fun” test we did this time, was component testing for each of our cows – component testing tells us the breakdown of fat, protein, lactose and solids in the milk. You can see each individual cow’s component breakdown below and then the herd’s average for each of the components. In the U.S., whole milk is classified as 3.25% fat, 3.3% protein, 4% lactose, and solids which are non-fat & lactose solids including vitamins, minerals, active enzymes and acids. The percentage of this in whole milk varies with the quality of the milk. All values listed below are percentages.
- Fat 4.88
- Protein 3.49
- Lactose 4.94
- Solids 5.89
- Fat 5.39
- Protein 3.28
- Lactose 4.55
- Solids 5.42
- Fat 6.22
- Protein 4.6
- Lactose 4.58
- Solids 5.51
Herd Average – this is what customers receive since milk is mixed together
- Fat 5.5
- Protein 3.79
- Lactose 4.69
- Solids 5.61
As always, let us know if you have any questions or concerns! We have milk shares available so contact us today for more information.