By Tim Wightman
Quick tips from Tim!
What They Test for in Raw Milk
- Specific Pathogens: Testing requirements vary by state. Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp, E. coli O157H7 and Staph aureus are considered the most dangerous.
- Somatic cell count or SCC: White blood cell count present in the milk. This indicates the general health condition of the udder and levels of mastitis infection, as well as indications of overall cow health and environmental pressures affecting the animal.
- Plate count: Indicates the overall cleanliness of milking equipment and the bacteria levels within milking equipment.
- Preliminary Incubation (PI): This is a test of a family of equipment bacteria that grow in cold temperatures. They are non harmful to humans but they shorten the shelf life of the milk.
- Coliforms: A test for general air and ground-borne Coliform bacteria (E. coli), which gives a good indication of the cow prep prior to milking and the quality of the environment the animals in question are exposed to.
My Safety Regime for a Small Farm
- Somatic cell count less than 300,000 on yearly average. My levels are under 200,000.
- Plate count less than 10,000 p/mL. Mine routinely ran 1000 or less.
- Coliform count less than 10 p/mL. Mine was always less than ten.
- PI count less than 50,000 p/mL.
- Johnes-free herdwith 100 percent of herd tested.
- TB-free herd.
- Brucellosis vaccination for heifers between four to eight months. All purchased cows meet same requirements before brought on farm.
- Pathogen tests monthly of E-coli O157H7, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogynes, and Campylobacter for a period of six months then drop to quarterly tests.
- Monthy bulk tank cultures that identify mastitis types, equipment bacteria, as well as environmental contamination the cows are exposed to.
- Mastitis type testing on questionable quarters; cull all Staph. aureus-positive cows.
- Milking system checked by professionals every six months.
In my opinion, all tests for pathogens should be done at state-certified labs. On-farm testing is a few years away as the culture of the tests can be spread and infect animals if not handled properly and destroyed with an autoclave.
This article appeared in the Fall 2006 edition of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation. It is part of Tim’s longer article on the 93rd IAFP Annual Conference.
Tim is a founder and board member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and president of its education and charitable arm, the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation. He is the author of the Raw Milk Production Handbook, a handy resource guide for farmers interested in producing quality raw milk who wish to implement testing and safety standards, used in thousands of small dairies worldwide.
Tim is best known for pioneering one of the earliest herd sharing programs in the U.S. to help his customers legally obtain raw dairy products. He has actively worked with state legislators to write more sustainable, farm-friendly laws. He is an instructor in Cow Share College & Goat Share University where he now trains and consults with small farmers on quality food production, food safety, herd management and direct marketing to consumers. A lifelong farmer, Tim is on the forefront of our nation’s transition back to a local farm economy. Over the last two decades, Tim has launched several CSAs, organic cooperatives and farmers’ markets, and was the owner/operator of a major organic farm and store, bakery and restaurant that featured locally produced foods.
Tim has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, and interviewed by numerous other media outlets nationwide. He has appeared in such national publications as Acres USA, Agri-View, Country Today, and Milkweed.
Tim lives in Western Ohio with his daughter, Anastasia, and works on national local food policy and sustainable agriculture issues.