Are there Antibiotic in Milk?
Many people are worried that there are antibiotics in their milk. It’s an important issue, and I can understand peoples fear. If you continually take antibiotics, you can build immunity, and the antibiotic’s effectiveness goes down significantly. That’s why it is imperative that there cannot be antibiotics in our milk, so we can use antibiotics when we need them!
I decided to write this to help people understand the measures we take on our dairy to ensure a high quality product. I can say confidently that there are no antibiotics in any milk because it’s illegal for antibiotics to be in the milk.
Selling Antibiotics in milk is Illegal
In fact, it is illegal to have antibiotics in the milk! Every milk truck that leaves our dairy is tested to ensure there are no antibiotics in the milk. Then when the milk gets to the milk processing plant, the milk is checked again to ensure there are no antibiotics in the milk. If milk is contaminated with antibiotics, the entire load must be thrown away.
Dairies that send milk to their creamery with antibiotics are penalized, and if milk is sent with antibiotics more than 3 times, the dairy can lose their license to produce milk. This ensures that dairies make it a priority to make sure no milk they are sending has antibiotics.
On our Dairy
The “Hospital” Pen
Besides losing our license to produce milk, we also suffer financially if antibiotics get in the milk. Milk with antibiotics MUST be dumped, and that’s milk that we don’t get paid for. Because of all the negative consequences of having antibiotics in the milk, we have set up strict quality control measures to make sure our milk remains antibiotic free.
We use antibiotics on our farm to help our animals recover when they get sick. When the cows and calves get sick, we have a few different antibiotics on hand that can be administered to help them feel better.
When a cow is diagnosed with an illness, she is moved to the hospital pen, and separated from the rest of the herd. Yes, there is a hospital at our dairy! The cow is then given the appropriate medicine. Our veterinarian also comes once a week to diagnose certain animals, and prescribe treatment.
All of the sick cows receiving treatment are separated from the rest of their herd mates and milked in a different milk barn.
On our dairy, we have 2 milk barns; the old barn my grandpa started with, and our newer barn we built later. So all of the sick cows get milked in the old barn, and all of the milk from the sick cows gets thrown away. It’s a great way for us to keep these two groups separate. All of the milking equipment and milk pipelines are separate from the barn where we milk all of our healthy cows.
**My Sister Entering Health Records Into the Computer**
When cows are treated, we document the treatment in our computer records. When the cows are better and ready to move back with the rest of their friends, we hold them a bit longer in the hospital pen. Some antibiotics when given to the cow can be transmitted into the milk, so each antibiotic has a withholding period. The withholding time is the amount of time needed before there is no drug residue in the milk.
After the cows is better, and they have been in the hospital long enough to have no drug residue in the milk, we move them out. But when we move them out, we use an antibiotic test that checks the milk for antibiotics. If the test is positive for drug residue, the cows must stay in the hospital pen. Only when we get a negative test for antibiotics do we move them out of the hospital.
Good record keeping can keep antibiotics from getting into the milk, but we use the antibiotic test as well to make sure we didn’t make a mistake! It’s basic quality control.
At the Creamery
All milk when it arrives at the creamery MUST be tested for antibiotics. It is mandated by law that each truckload must be tested for antibiotics. If antibiotics are detected in any truckload of milk, the milk must be dumped.
Besides antibiotics in the milk being illegal, processors have motivation to have antibiotic free milk. When making cheese, yogurt, and other cultured dairy products, the bacteria culture that makes the products can be inhibited from growing. If the bacteria don’t grow, you can’t make cheese, yogurt, or other dairy products! Because of this fact, cheese makers and other dairy processors are vigilant in keeping antibiotics out of the milk.
Organic vs. Conventional
When people talk about the differences between organic and conventional dairy farming, many people feel that organic is a “healthier choice” because no antibiotics are used on the organic dairy. But conventional dairies do produce milk without antibiotics too; it’s just a difference of management practices.
Organic dairy farms are prohibited from using antibiotics on their farms. I feel that organic dairies are very cruel towards the animals in this way as there is medicine to help ease their suffering and help them recover faster. Withholding antibiotics from the sick animals only prolongs suffering and can even result in death if they are not treated.
Put it this way, you get sick and the doctor tells you he has the cure, and you could be better in a few days if he gives it to you. But the doctor notes that you’re at a different hospital that believes everyone else in the world would be better off if you didn’t take the antibiotics, so they won’t let you take the medicine.
Not administering any antibiotics is a way to prevent any antibiotics from getting into your milk, but you can use antibiotics responsibly on dairy cows and not have any antibiotics in the milk as well.
I am not against organic dairies; in fact I have many friends who have organic dairies. But people must remember that organic milk is not necessarily better for you; it’s just a difference of management practices that are being used on the dairies.
Three take facts to take away: antibiotics are used to keep cows healthy, antibiotics can be used responsibly, and they are kept out of the milk we drink. Consumers can rest assured knowing that dairies take pride in producing high quality milk that is free of antibiotics.
It is illegal for dairies to have antibiotics in the milk, and this coupled with the potential financial loss of having antibiotics in the milk makes it a priority for dairymen to keep contaminates such as antibiotics out of the milk.
On our dairy, we have put into place a various quality control measures to make sure we do not have any antibiotics in our milk (i.e. separate pen, computer records, and antibiotics test), and many other dairies have the exact same controls in place.
It’s important that antibiotics don’t get in the milk, and we all can agree on this. But it’s also important that people understand the management practices we have put into place to keep antibiotics out of the milk at the dairy. I hope that this posting gives milk drinkers everywhere more insight to what we do at the dairy, and the pride we take in producing milk that is guaranteed antibiotic-free!