The Basics of Producing Clean Raw Milk
Raw Milk Basics
Fresh milk, straight from the farm, has been and will
continue to be in great demand as we all seek fresh
tasting, wholesome farm products for a clean-living
lifestyle. While debates will always exist over the risks
and benefits associated with raw milk, it should be the
imperative of every dairy producer to ensure the
highest quality product, even when we are just feeding
our own families.
There are many factors to explore when producing a sanitary, raw milk product and in this article, we take a look at how to keep milk as safe and natural as nature intended.
Animal Housing and Pen Cleanliness
Without delving too deeply into animal husbandry and the inherent risks of contamination by various pathogens, it is important to begin by looking at the animals themselves. Any dairy animal should have access to living quarters that are kept clean of manure and urine build in order to limit fecal exposure on her hooves, fur and udder (the latter
especially important for mastitis prevention). Clean facilities limit
transfer of pathogens from the barnyard into the milking parlor,
and subsequently the milk. In fact, many mastitis events and
cases of bacterial contamination from milk has been traced what
is referred to as a “dairy clip”, the close shaving of udder, belly
and rear legs, goes a long way in avoiding transfer of debris
during the milking process, not to mention in terms of the health
of the mammary system.
The Milking Parlor or Site
The dairy parlor, as a vector for pathogen transferal, should be a tidy and sanitized area, free of dirt buildup and separated from animal housing, especially if hand milking. Milking stands or stanchion should be frequently cleaned to limit the build up of dirt and any milk that gets deposited on them. Most importantly, the condition of milking equipment, including hoses, buckets, inflations, etc., is of utmost importance when looking at the quality of milk produced.
In a future article, we will provide specific cleaning
protocols for the sanitation of this equipment; simple
measures for clean milk. That said, all equipment should
be from high quality, dairy materials, whether that be
stainless steel, glass, or food grade plastic/silicone.
All materials should be free from scratches and
obviously soiling. Tubing and inflations should be
replaced on at least a yearly basis, depending on
Post-milking sanitation is an absolute must and should
follow established proven protocols. Udders should be
clean, free of mastitis, and the first milk, which contains
the highest level of somatic cells, discarded.
Milk Containers and Cooling
If it is not already clear, the composition of raw milk,
with its sugars and water content, is the perfect “Petri
dish”, for bacterial growth and the job of the producer
is to limit all methods of pathogen transfer! Thus, in
addition to general indications on cleanliness during
the milking process, taking care of milk handling is very
important. Raw milk should be quickly strained
with appropriate, single use, dairy filters into sanitized
Many producers prefer glass jars with food grade plastic
lids. Food grade, disposable, one-time use plastics are also acceptable and perhaps easier to manage; however, there is a great risk of undesirable flavors being imparted to the milk. Re-used plastic is a no-no with raw milk!
Raw milk should also be chilled as quickly as possible and ice baths are an easy, economical way to achieve this. This quick chilling process provides for a fresh tasting product and also
sharply stops any possible bacterial growth. Raw milk should be stored close to 32 degrees F at all times, and this includes during transport.
To conclude, raw milk is a delicious, healthy product to be enjoyed. At every step of the production process, the producer should always have strategic methods for keeping the milk clean, sanitary and thus pathogen free. Formulating a routine that follows basic sanitizing procedures will ensure that your animals stay healthy, and your raw milk lasts for weeks!
Do you have questions about your milk handling practices? Contact me and I'll be happy to talk to you about it.
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