Dairy - Milk
WHAT IS MILK?
Milk is the flavor we love in cheese and yoghurt, in butter, cream, and ice-cream. Unless you are lactose-intolerant, milk is a source of easily digestible protein. It contains calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12; all in the handy drink, most people enjoy daily, either pure, flavoured or in your morning coffee.
Dairy herds consist of cows which produce large volumes of milk. The most common dairy breed Canada-wide is the black and white Holstein cow. Depending on age and lactation status, dairy animals may be referred to as replacement heifers (young, non-lactating animals) or cows (lactating animals). Intact males are called bulls. Cows are mammals and like all mammals produce milk for their young. This is the milk we get from cows.
WHERE IS MILK PRODUCED IN BC?
The majority of BC dairy herds are located in the Lower Mainland (68%), the Okanagan-Shuswap area (18%),
and Vancouver Island (9%), while the remaining 5% of BC dairies are located in the Bulkley Valley, Cariboo and Peace regions.
HOW MUCH MILK DO WE PRODUCE?
545 BC dairy farms produced over 675 million litres of milk. Currently, the average herd size is 135 cows plus an equal number of dairy replacement calves and heifers varying in age from birth to about 26 months. The average cow on test produces over 32 litres of milk per day and milks about 10.5 months in a year, which equals about 10,000 litres of milk per cow per year. That's an average of 115 glasses of milk per day, every day of the year.
HOW IS MILK PRODUCED?
any cow produces milk, she must first become a mother. When a dairy
replacement heifer reaches 13 to 15 months of age she is bred, usually by
artificial insemination. After a nine month gestation period she gives birth to a calf at 22 to 24 months of age, starts producing milk and continues doing so for
the next 10 to 11 months.
Depending on ambient temperature, level of milk production, and feed moisture content, a cow will consume about 16 kg of dry hay or up to 40 kg of high moisture silage and drink up to 90-120 litres of water a day. A cow's diet is supplemented with high energy and high protein feeds such as barley, wheat, corn, soybean and canola meal, and dried distillers grains, as well as a specially formulated premix of minerals and vitamins. For high producing herds, feed additives such as energy rich fats and high quality rumen by-pass proteins are fed to meet the nutrient demands of high milk production. All dairy cattle rations are nutritionally balanced and fed to meet the energy, protein and other nutritional requirements of the animal for high milk production, reproduction, and growth in the case of young dairy cows.
Milking machines are labour-saving devices used to milk a cow. Cow’s udders are cleaned and stimulated to encourage desired milk let-down. A synthetic or natural rubber lined suction cup is attached to each teat. The pulsating action of the suction cups on the teats further stimulates milk letdown from the cow. The suction cups are connected to a single claw unit which in turn is attached to hoses and pipes that allows for the collection and transfer of milk from the cow to a bulk milk cooler (or storage tank). The milk is quickly cooled in the bulk milk tank and maintained at a temperature below 4°C. On the majority of dairy farms, cows are milked twice, while a few dairies have elected to milk three times a day. Milkings are scheduled to be at the same times each day. All equipment used for milking is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before and after every milking.
The past decade has seen the introduction and adoption of robotic milking systems by many dairy farms. These systems operate on the same basic principles as traditional systems for milking cows; however, they milk cows throughout the day without the need for an operator to be present. Cows enter the robotic milking station on their own free will, are milked and released back into the main barn. Robotic milked herds average about 2.5 milkings per cow per day. With the high cost of labour and increasing herd sizes, this technology is increasingly being adopted by the dairy industry worldwide as a labour-saving device.
Commercial dairy farms are inspected and certified before being issued a license and allowed to produce and ship milk. An inspection will include an in-depth examination of the following: facility design and location; ventilation; lighting; space allowance per animal; manure handling and storage; milking equipment; milk house design and location; feed handling and storage; adequate and proper storage areas for chemicals; vaccines and drugs; cleanliness and drainage of all areas surrounding buildings; and ready and safe access by the bulk milk hauler to and from the milk house area.
The majority of dairy producers and their staff, use computers and other technologies in and outside the barn to keep track of how much each cow eats, how much milk each cow produces, and to get early warnings on such health issues as lameness and mastitis infections in udders. Computerized mating programs are used where individual cows are matched to specific bulls (sires) for breeding in order to obtain superior genetics in their offspring. Computers are also routinely used for record-keeping including accounting as well as to search and locate marketing, herd and financial management information on the Internet.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE MILK LEAVES THE FARM?
Milk is picked up from the farm by a certified and licensed bulk milk hauler (truck) every second day. The licensed driver collects an aseptic sample from each farm’s bulk tank to be later tested at a certified laboratory to ensure it meets quality and safety standards. Before the milk can be unloaded at the processing plant, a sample of milk from the bulk truck is tested for antibiotic residues. If residues were found, the entire shipment would be destroyed and the farmer responsible pays a heavy fine (thousands of dollars). The producer responsible for the contamination also pays for the entire truckload of milk, plus the disposal costs for the milk.
In addition to antibiotic testing at the processing plant, the bulk truck’s milk temperature, acidity and flavour is also checked before the milk is unloaded at the plant. Following that, individual producer bulk tank milk samples are relayed to a certified lab for additional quality testing that includes bacteria, water contamination and somatic cell counts. The presence of somatic cell counts is an indicator of udder health status and milk quality. Other tests may be carried out from time to time to ensure purity of the product.
To ensure the safety of milk, it is pasteurized. This process involves heating milk quickly to 72°C and cooling it rapidly and keeping it below 4°C (or below 40°F). This kills harmful bacteria that may be present in the milk. Destroying potential spoilage organisms in the milk through pasteurization helps maintain the freshness of the milk and extend its shelf life once purchased by consumers. Pasteurization also serves an important public health safety function by destroying organisms potentialy present in the milk that could pose a risk to human health.
In days gone by before homogenization, the cream always rose to
the top. Today, milk is homogenized. This process ensures
that the cream is thoroughly mixed throughout the product so that
it does not separate out, thus maintaining a consistent product to the last drop. Homogenization does not alter any of the nutrients found in milk.
Throughout the entire process, from the time the cow is milked
until the milk is packaged, milk is never touched by human hands.
Milk is natural - nothing is added except vitamin A and D, which is required by law. Milk remains one of the purest and safest foods available. Unlike many other countries, it is illegal in Canada for dairy producers to use growth hormones to increase milk yields. To ensure quality milk to consumers, Canadian dairy producers have been very proactive by implementing a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) based program known as CQM (Canadian Quality Milk). CQM requires producers to collect and maintain records on critical points of their operation where milk quality can be impacted. To date, participation in the CQM Program has been voluntary, but by 2013 it will become mandatory for all Canadian dairy producers to adopt the CQM Program.
The dairy (processing plant) is also inspected regularly for
cleanliness, handling procedures and equipment standards. All milk
contact equipment is cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis. Failure to do so would result in bacterial spoilage before the 'good until' code date. Every dairy processor, and their employees working in the
processing area, must be licensed.
Milk is packaged quickly, within 24 hours of
arriving at a dairy plant. Packaged dairy products are also
regularly tested by a certified laboratory for composition to
ensure the product contains what it claims. This is also the final
check point to ensure the product meets all the quality standards established
for bacteria, coliforms, yeasts, moulds and other potential
contaminants. Dairy products at retail outlets are subject to
random sampling as a further check of their safety, quality and
composition. With all this testing, Canadian dairy products are likely the safest foods we can purchase.
About 52-54% of the milk produced in BC is sold as fluid milk while
the rest is manufactured into semi-fluid and solid products such
as cheese, ice cream, yogurt, butter and cottage cheese.
WHAT DOES MILK LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?
drink fresh milk (whole, 2%, 1%, skim and chocolate) and use milk
products such as cheese, yogurt, sour cream, whipping cream,
cottage cheese, butter, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and skim
milk powder. Among the cheeses BC produces are cheddar,
mozzarella, parmesan, colby, gouda, farmer, edam, monterey jack,
feta, quark, cottage cheese and ricotta.
Milk is 89% water and 11% solids. The nutrients, such as calcium, riboflavin, vitamin A, lactose and protein are in the solids. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are highly recommended by Health Canada and most nutritionists as products that people should consume to satisfy their daily dietary calcium requirements.
A 250 ml glass of milk provides a big percentage of your recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals: 25% vitamin D, 15% vitamin B-12, 17% protein, 29% calcium, 23% phosphorus and 23% riboflavin.
WHAT PRODUCTION CHALLENGES DO DAIRY PRODUCERS FACE?
Dairy farms are close to being self-sustaining units. Farmers
grow two-thirds of the feed that a cow consumes and they recycle the cow's
manure back to the fields where the feed is grown. Manure is very
useful to farmers because it contains valuable nutrients and organic matter
which helps to sustain and build the quality of the soil.
Further challenges facing today's dairy producers include:
- Meeting environmental and new legislation requirements pertaining to air, soil and water.
- Increased public concern with regards to animal care.
- Surviving a market that is becoming increasingly competitive on a global
- Rising input costs for such things as feed, energy, equipment, skilled labour, and land.
- Maintaining a high level of biosecurity to ensure that herd health is not compromised by the introduction of new diseases.
- Educating consumers about how and where their food is produced and retaining their confidence that their food is safe and of the highest quality.
- Dealing with increasing competition for land use (urban
push; industrial demands; increased land values) and challenges to the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) to maintain land for agricultural use.
WHO'S INVOLVED IN GETTING THE MILK FROM THE FARM TO THE TABLE?
- Dairy farm owner, manager and staff (milkers, herdspersons, field
- Breed associations
- Artificial insemination technicians
- Dairy herd improvement advisors
- Financial advisors and consultants
- Milking equipment, farm equipment, building and facility suppliers
- Feed producers and nutritionists
- Dairy processors
- Government inspectors and advisors
- Government and university researchers
- Bulk milk truck drivers
- Milk product deliverers
- Store employees
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DAIRY INDUSTRY TO THE BC ECONOMY?
In 2010, BC produced 657 million litres of milk with a farm gate value of $493.7 million, which represents 20.3% of Total Farm Cash Receipts for BC. In addition to this, BC producers received an additional $56 million from the sales of market (cull) dairy animals to the beef industry.
Independent studies of the BC dairy industry indicate that it generates in excess of $2.4 billion in economic output per year of which $767 million can be considered value-added to the BC economy. In addition to this, these same studies also indicate that in excess of $100 million in municipal, provincial and federal taxes are also generated directly and indirectly by the BC dairy industry value-chain.
Over 13,000 jobs are generated by our dairy industry. About 7,000 jobs are supported by dairy producers (4,360) and processors (2,620), with a further 6,240 jobs in related industries.
BC ranks first among all provinces in terms of having the highest provincial herd average milk production per cow, and it ranks third in Canada, behind Ontario and Quebec, with respect to total milk production with an 8.3% market share.
Contacts and other resources: