17 May Got Milk?
Some of our favorite comfort foods that we will be indulging in this month like cheese, yogurt, custard, and ice cream are all products of one thing, milk! Why is it that we are encouraged to drink milk as a child, and even into adulthood as well? Milk is mostly composed of water, but the remaining solid portion contains some vital nutrients like carbohydrates, protein, minerals, and vitamins. Minerals like calcium and phosphorus are important for proper bone development and growth. Protein plays a role in muscle repair and development, as well as supporting the immune system.
So how does the milk get from the cow’s udder to the plastic jug sitting in the refrigerator section of the grocery store?
First, the cow is milked. Milking usually occurs twice or three times a day, by utilizing a special milking machine that is attached to each of the four teats located on the udder. The milk machine allows larger dairy farms to more efficiently remove milk from the cow, reduce damage to the teats during milking, and reduce the workload for the producer. Small farms may still perform hand milking, but this technique is not efficient on large scale farms with hundreds of cows to milk each day. After the cows are milked, the milk is then stored in a large tank where it is chilled and tested for safety. Next, the new milk is transported via truck to a dairy processing plant. At the dairy processing plant, the milk is pasteurized first. Pasteurization is the process of applying heat and increasing the temperature of the milk to kill bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms. After the pasteurization process, the milk is packaged into plastic or glass containers. During its time at the dairy processing plant, the milk undergoes many safety and sanitation checks to ensure its freshness and safety for consumers. Finally, the milk is transported to grocery stores across the country for all to enjoy!
What is a veterinarian’s role in the milking process?
Veterinarians are primarily responsible for taking care of the dairy cows and maintaining their health, production, and well-being. A veterinarian will assess if the cow eating an adequate amount of feed, consuming enough water, and producing an appropriate amount of milk. Dairy cows need to eat an average of 100 lbs of feed and drink 30-50 gallons of water per day. A healthy dairy cow will produce 6-7 gallons of milk per day. Decreased milk production can be a sign of illness or injury. During the veterinarian’s visit, they will also observe the cow’s general appearance and its environment. Certain cows may need to undergo a physical exam. During the physical exam, the veterinarian will examine the cow’s eyes, mouth, heart, lungs, gastrointestinal system, temperature, udder, etc. Finally, the veterinarian will complete all vaccinations and infectious disease testing as needed for the dairy cows.
So when you’re drinking that ice cold milk or eating that delicious frozen custard and proudly wearing the milk mustache, thank the veterinarian, farmer and Cow and enjoy!