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#1 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 11:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi there.

We are considering a dairy farm that delivers raw milk close to our home. Of course it is a cow lease program.

I sent her a list of questions and there were a few , with our first time heading forward on this journey, I wanted to be sure that the farm was completely on the up and up. It sounds like they are, now that she has answered my questions.

However, she seems annoyed, almost angry that I asked so many questions. Which I am guessing it's because farming is a hard and long job and she doesn't want to take the time to answer them. I am not sure. But I am a bit hesitant with her annoyance.

Also, the one question I asked, that the realmilk.com site suggested, is if they dip the teats of the cow into an iodine solution before milking. Her answer to that was no. Not sure if this a great concern?

J.
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#2 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 11:54 AM
 
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I'd go check out the farm. Do they drink the milk? Do they drink it raw? How are the cows treated/raised - not what they say, whats it look like? I'm just... so suspicious these days of what people say vs what they actually do, you know? So... I'd definetly go and try and set up a time to go see it.
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#3 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 01:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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1) Do you have any other health inspections aside from your yearly inspection by OEFFA?OEFFa is a whole day audit for our Organic Certification If so, by whom and how often? Have you ever had any problems with your inspections? We are inspected twice a year from State of Michigan, they can stop in anytime or inspect us more if they choose. We also have Federal inspected once a year or twice depending on them, that is how we get the Grade A licence.

2) How important is it to you to keep a very clean/sterile farm/facility environment? I have read that the most important aspect of a raw milk dairy farm is their cleanliness and handling. How would your farm compare to the conventional dairy farm that I mentioned in an earlier email? There is no comparison how conventional and a organic farm treat their animals or procedures. You will not have sterile on a farm. It is a farm. Our bacteria counts speak for the cleanness. Understand we ship milk also, if we shipped a high bacteria count we would pay for the whole load of milk on the truck from every other farmer who's milk was picked up, because it would be rejected. So we have very clean milk.

3) Where to the cows bed (sleep), is their environment kept clean on a consistent basis? They sleep either in barn in stall with hay or they can sleep out side.
Our cows get best care. We spend extra money for top minerals you can buy and treat them with homeopathic methods which call for expensive essential oils.

4) How do you package your butter? I read that a half pound is $10.00. I don't know how much a half a pound of butter is, is it a sizable amount? How long does the butter keep for and can you freeze it? 8 ounces, yes you can freeze the butter.

5) If "our cow" dies or retires , will we be issued a new contract with a new number and cow name, or does the cow name and number just transfer to the new cow? You are leasing a cow, we would replace you with a new one.

6) When you test your milk, what do you test for and who tests the milk? Bacteria is the only importance to you. We don"t test the milk a outside company hired by the company we ship to test it and the State of Michigan.

7) How many cows do you own and how many cow leases (members) do you have? We milk 40, we have over 200 members.

8) After reading your response to these questions, I would like to fill out the contract form to receive milk and butter from your farm. What do I insert for "Cow #" and "Cow Name"? We fill that in.

We started the cow shares 4 years ago and had around 40 clients who came on regular basis to the farm every week to get there own milk. We started the deliveries in January to keep the farm going and have over 200 shares now.

I have never had so many questions from one person.
A Dairy farmer works 16-18 hour days to keep his cows feed, housed and milked, 365 days a year. A clean barn insures healthy animals.
We do not use Iodine dip or TB test and we will not TB test. This is another whole subject.

` farmer signed email.
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#4 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 02:43 PM
 
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I think I'd buy their milk. I can understand why that many questions would be a little annoying. Although I understand why you asked, can you imagine them saying "no, we don't care about cleanliness, and we don't keep the cow's sleeping place clean."?

maybe the farmer was just having a bad day!

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#5 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 03:18 PM
 
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These are probably common questions. They should make up a FAQ sheet.

Does anyone know what they would have against teat dip? Chemical in milk? What would they clean the teats with? Alcohol?

They didn't really answer your testing questions. I would wonder what the bacteria counts are.

This is just a strange response for a herd share. You're buying equity, right? Questions should be common. Strange.

I'm just curious because we have milk available commercially here, do you pay an upfront cost and then pay per product? You mention $10 for the butter. I had assumed with herd shares that a share would entitle you to a fixed amount of product, XX gallons of milk and XX pounds of butter a week, for instance.

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#6 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 04:10 PM
 
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Personally, I don't think the response sounded angry. I think the farmer answered all your questions. They probably thought you didn't understand the amount of work involved in caring for a farm. It IS a lot of work, and most people just have NO idea what goes into caring for a herd of cattle, beef or dairy. Esp. for cow share herds.

As far as teat-dipping before milking, I can't figure out why you would do that. I've never done that on any farm I've milked for. Standard procedure was something like dip in iodine/soap solution, wipe, strip, milk, strip, dip. The first dip gets the teats wet before you wipe them clean; the strip is about one or two squirts of milk to remove any wayward dirt/bacteria that may have found its way up into the milk duct (also lets the milker check for early signs of mastitis). The after milk strip helps make sure the udder is milked clean, and then the second dip helps seal the end of the teat so that dirt can't get back up in it.

I think it is acceptable that they don't do a pre-milking dip. You wouldn't want any chemical going into the milk. As long as they are cleaning the udder first (and I can't imagine any dairyman skipping that part!), I'm sure they are clean enough. The farmer is right: you will never have sterile on a farm, even the cleanest farm. There will always be dirt, flies, insects, bacteria, etc. It is a matter of how much, where, and what their dirt containment/control policies are.

I would totally get milk from this farm. After I went to personally visit, of course! JMO
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#7 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 04:52 PM
 
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gardenmommy -- I am not understanding the distinction on teat dipping. You said you would dip in iodine before milking and they say they don't. Is iodine before milking optional? Or are you talking about some other teat dip product that you would only use after?

Amanda Rose, author, Rebuild From Depression: A Nutrient Guide. Don't miss this opportunity to build a business telling friends about probiotic foods and grass fed meats: Beyond Organic Review.

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#8 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 04:53 PM
 
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On the key question: Do go out to the farm. That is probably how most people get their information anyway.

Amanda Rose, author, Rebuild From Depression: A Nutrient Guide. Don't miss this opportunity to build a business telling friends about probiotic foods and grass fed meats: Beyond Organic Review.

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#9 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 05:10 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gardenmommy View Post
Standard procedure was something like dip in iodine/soap solution, wipe, strip, milk, strip, dip. The first dip gets the teats wet before you wipe them clean; the strip is about one or two squirts of milk to remove any wayward dirt/bacteria that may have found its way up into the milk duct (also lets the milker check for early signs of mastitis). The after milk strip helps make sure the udder is milked clean, and then the second dip helps seal the end of the teat so that dirt can't get back up in it.
This is what our raw dairy farm does. The owner of the farm we get our milk from was a certified Dairy Inspector and grew up on a farm. I trust what she does. After the teat is dipping it is wiped clean, dried, stripped, milked, etc.

I'm curious, why would you NOT do a teat dip?

Yes, still go visit the farm to see for yourself how healthy the cows are, clean, etc. And personally, if you are running a cow share you should expect to get many, many questions. It wouldn't really take THAT long to put together a FAQ brochure and would save them from any future "questionaire headaches"

wife to DH 2/03, mama to DS 3/03 & DD 1/09
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#10 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 05:21 PM
 
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Having milked a Jersey cow for years and visited many other raw milk dairies, I have a few suggestions.

Go to the farm and watch during milking time. Everyone has a different concept of "cleanliness". Some dairies prefer to slop some disinfectant on the cow's (dirty) teats, then put the machine on. Others carefully wash the whole udder/teats, and actually get the dirt off first.

How clean are the cows? Do they clean the udders thoroughly first? Is someone watching each cow the whole time the machine is on? Cows often kick the machine off if they are irritated. The vacuum stays on, however, so it may suck up dirt from the floor. In a commercial dairy this doesn't matter because the milk is pasteurized any way. Any dairy with 40 cows will have difficult time keeping things clean.

Another thing - the email response said that they don't TB test. Tuberculosis testing is mandatory in the state of Michigan if you have a dairy. I would be suspicious of this.

Also, ask what they feed the cows. They should be on pasture with hay and minimal grain. If they feed more than 1 - 2 lbs of grain per day to the cows (as in 4 - 20 lbs, as is usually fed), do not get milk from the farm (read up on the grainfed - E. coli link).

I hope this helps!
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#11 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 05:28 PM
 
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I didn't take her email as being harsh or mean.
It's hard with email to understand a person's tone.
She probably wanted to let you know the amount of work and effort she's putting into this so you'll understand she's going to take good care of the animals and do her best to provide quality milk.

Thank her for her time answering your questions...visit the farm.
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#12 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 05:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hey there.

Thanks for the responses.

A cow share involves purchasing a share of the cow, in states that consider raw milk to be illegal for sale. So this way it's legal because you own the cow you are getting milk from.

A share is 57.00 a year.
Then 7.00 a gallon. You are entitled for up to three gallons a week.
Butter is 10.00 for a half pound (8 oz.).

Essentially these fees are supposed to go toward cow care not the purchase of milk.

I know for a fact that she was annoyed by my questions, because of other emails and she also stated that she "would have to consider giving me a lease" because of how many questions I asked. However. the way I look at it...if the farm is not run properly, one could get very sick. So I thought it pertanent to ask these questions. I am not buying a pair of shoes, I am investing in a cow share and ingesting milk that could make you sick if not handled correctly, which is why I was asking so many questions. The farm is two and a half hours away from my home...so visiting seems like a huge pain with a little one in tow. They deliver to a destination about 20 min from my home. So that was convenient. I just thought with the nature of raw milk consumption and production, she would expect questions. I talked to her on the phone one time and she seems annoyed with me even then...(she requested a phone call because she felt I had to many questions). I don't know. The other farm that is available in my area is a 1-1/2 hour drive to get the milk. Kinda crazy.

Anyway....I am still in limbo.
J.
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#13 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 05:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am actually scared to ask her any more questions to be honest. I feel that she would probably tell me that she will not give me a contract because she is to annoyed by me. LOL

Maybe driving an hour and a half isn't so bad. The other lady I spoke to that I would have to drive that distance to get it seemed nice. Maybe I will call her back and ask if she would mind if I sent some questions along to her.


Hmmmm...
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#14 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 05:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I definitely thanked her for her time. I was overly nice actually. In other emails and one phone call I definitely got the sense she was annoyed with me. She even said with all of my questions that she would have to think about giving me the lease....

TB testing is manditory? She is certified and gets inspections, so wouldn't they know they don't test?

Does anyone else get raw milk in Michigan? If so from whom?

Here is the farm in question:
http://www.hicksorganicfood.com/index.html

J.
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#15 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 05:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh the other thing is...

The difference between the to cow farms is the diary in question tests every other day for bacteria. The dairy with the nice woman that is 1-1/2 drive to pick up milk only tests once a month.

That kinda scares me.
J.
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#16 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 05:55 PM
 
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I seem to remember a dust-up about farms (maybe in Michigan?) that were refusing to comply with routine TB testing. Does anyone know?

In California, raw dairies are required to test annually (or maybe every two years I'm not sure). Dairies creating milk for pasteurization test only if they see symptoms. If they find a confirmed case, they test the herd. We actually had thousands of cows slaughtered a few months ago because some herds got infected.

I am giving the farmer the benefit of the doubt on the TB issue. Surely she tests if there are symptoms. No one wants sick cows. But it does strike me as a little snotty to say "we never test for TB." It really isn't a bad thing to test for it, whether it's necessary may be another matter. But it's true, it's sure hard to know the "tone" in the written word.

Now I'm really curious about herd shares. Does anyone know much about the law behind them? It seems that the arrangement of this farm is a lot closer to a co-op with a start-up fee rather than buying equity in a cow and getting your share of its milk. I've never been a member of any herd share and have never given it a lot of thought. I had just assumed the arrangement would be different

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#17 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 06:17 PM
 
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I would be curious as to exactly what she does test for. It says "bacteria" but she doesn't specify which bacteria. I didn't see her email as being angry...just...kind of terse.

As far as cleaning procedures go, there are two that I would want to see. The first one is before milking, and it's for you. You clean the udder and teats so bacteria doesn't go into the milking pail. The second cleaning procedure is post-milking, and it's for the animal. You dip the teats in a solution so that bacteria doesn't go into their open orifices. I personally use vinegar, TTO and lavendar EO for my goats and it works great.

I would probably go with the other farm. I don't know anything about cows, but if I was going to buy a cow share I'd want it to be with someone who welcomed my questions and didn't treat me like I was a pain for asking them.
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#18 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 06:21 PM
 
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Also, J, it sounds like you are a little nervous about the whole raw milk thing in general. Is there anything specific that you are nervous about?

I ask because I was VERY queasy about our raw milk when we first got our goats. That was five months ago and now I drink their milk by the gallon. And I was never even a milk drinker before.

Anyway, I can relate if you are a little scared.
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#19 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 06:46 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jojo F. View Post
This is what our raw dairy farm does. The owner of the farm we get our milk from was a certified Dairy Inspector and grew up on a farm. I trust what she does. After the teat is dipping it is wiped clean, dried, stripped, milked, etc.

I'm curious, why would you NOT do a teat dip?

Yes, still go visit the farm to see for yourself how healthy the cows are, clean, etc. And personally, if you are running a cow share you should expect to get many, many questions. It wouldn't really take THAT long to put together a FAQ brochure and would save them from any future "questionaire headaches"

Because not everyone likes the chemical used to dip. Some people just use plain water (hot), some use a special soap (what we use, with warm water), and some dip with an iodine solution. It really depends on what the person's preference is. Some just dip and slap the machine on. Some are really thorough, and dry after washing (what our vet recommends).

Also, they may not have the computer experience to develop an FAQ. I know lots of farmers like that. They don't have the knowledge to do it, and lack either the time or money (or both) to acquire the skills. They may have limited resources for developing a website for their farm, or for using the computer in general. Not saying that this is true for this particular farm, just that I know that to be the case for lots of farmers.

Bacteria testing: usually it is a general test to see what the levels are in the milk. It isn't allowed to be sold commercially if it surpasses a set number (have no idea what that is).

TB testing: in MI, once a herd is tested negative, annual testing is not required, as long as one is not moving cattle across state lines. If TB is found in a "zone", testing is stricter.

Cow shares: you pay an up-front fee to buy your share, and then a monthly fee for the upkeep of your cow. That is the only way to get around the illegality of raw milk in MI. They (the powers that be) are trying to close that loophole.

I'm sorry that the farmer is being grumpy about your questions. She is probably just wondering if you are serious, or are trying to cause her trouble. I would imagine she is getting tired of all the concerns, since she probably feels she has told you everything she can to allay your concerns. I would just see if you can visit in person. I'm sure everything is fine.
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#20 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gardenmommy View Post


TB testing: in MI, once a herd is tested negative, annual testing is not required, as long as one is not moving cattle across state lines. If TB is found in a "zone", testing is stricter.

I understand you'd want milk from healthy cows, but wasn't it disproved that bovine TB is transmitted to humans? I thought that was from the workers that were sick and milking the cows.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gardenmommy View Post
She is probably just wondering if you are serious, or are trying to cause her trouble. I would imagine she is getting tired of all the concerns, since she probably feels she has told you everything she can to allay your concerns. I would just see if you can visit in person. I'm sure everything is fine.
I really think that's probably the case, raw milk farmers have to be very wary of the people they're dealing with. Never know when it's someone working undercover :

Raw milk is generally very safe, I believe there's a guy in california that's even tested it buy putting ecoli into it and pastuerized milk both and then retesting it later. While it had grown in the pastuerized milk it hadn't in the raw milk. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that was the gist of it.
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#21 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:05 PM
 
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i don't teat dip. i'm allergic to iodine. there are non-iodine options, but i've never needed them. teat dips are to prevent mastitis. they are especially needed when the cows are machine milked in dairies and when the places the cows lay down in are muddy or dirty. high powered dairy machine systems open the teat orifices in a different way than other milking methods. this leaves them open to bacteria. i am just saying there is an 'idea' behind teat dipping and it works, it does, but it isnt a standard i would hold a dairy to. if they had mastitis issues, they would be dipping. but obviously they have their methods figured out.

there is more than one way to milk a cow, and some choose a more natural method than others. there are some things that are always 'true', like good feed and water, they're a must. a cow will not thrive without them. but teat dip? not so much.

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#22 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:09 PM
 
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I would. They answered your questions, right? Farming is hard work, especially with cows..and if they have 200 members, they have a lot of cows! It's a 24/7 job. Plus they have a lot to deal with, if they have that many members.

My DH found a farm that he goes to to pick the milk up, the person also delivers to a few food coops in the area. The milk is so much better than that crap they peddle at the store. They have a lot of hassle from the federal govt as far as trying to find a reason to shut them down. Family farms and the milking areas have to be cleaner than factory farms, otherwise the milk would be tainted (as in off flavors or smells). People just believe the hype about 'raw' milk...never mind that the factory farms where they pasteurize the milk doesn't have to be 'clean'..since they heat the milk.

I hope we never have to buy store bought milk again!
You'll probably enjoy all that milk, it's so much better tasting.

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#23 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think what I am most nervous about is getting sick and my family getting sick. Since I am the one who has done the research so far and am the one really heading this whole thing up for my family, I feel I would be responsible if someone did get sick.

So that is why I am asking all the questions about cleanliness and bacteria and so on.

J.
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#24 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:10 PM
 
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i also want to add that i sell raw milk and i NEVER test my milk. why not? because i have a closed herd, my cows are clean and i dont feed high-concentrate feeds (which give rise to deadly strains of ecoli). my milking procedure is clean. the kind of bacteria you might be worried about does not manifest out of thin air.

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#25 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What questions would you ask the other farm in question....

I just called her and asked her if she would mind if I sent her a laundry list of quesitons and she said "No problem, absolutely!". So that is the difference. But the drive is really yucky.

Did I miss important questions that should be asked?

J.
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#26 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:27 PM
 
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Did you ask what the animals are fed?
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#27 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:34 PM
 
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Me personally, I would not get into an arrangement with this dairy. Farming is hard, but it's not so hard that you can't take a few minutes to provide a little bit of customer service. You will hopefully be forming a long lasting partnership with this dairy. I'd want to trust that when the changed the share price it was for real reasons and not just to make more money, and I don't really get that vibe from the responses.

As for the questions I would ask:
  1. What are the rules for visits? Are there open hours or do all visits have to be pre-scheduled?
  2. Do you have formal food safety training for employees which includes the signs and symptoms of food borne illnesses? What about for bleeding incidents?
  3. If employees are ill or injured, what precautions are taken when they are working with the milking equipment or the milk?
  4. What is your hold period? (In case an employee comes down with a highly contagious food borne illness, but wasn't showing any symptoms at work.)
  5. If that happens what is your process to ok this milk for release?

BTW 8 ozs is 2 sticks of butter. So I would ask what their price for cream is and make your own.
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#28 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Is $10.00 a lot for a half pound of butter (8 oz.)?

That seems like a fortune?

J.
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#29 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Their cream is $12.00 a quart.
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#30 of 54 Old 10-03-2008, 07:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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By the way, would it be a concern to anyone that the other farm only tests their milk once a month?
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