Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Coliform Bacteria

I was feeling pretty good about my test results yesterday, and then I was reminded by another cow-owning friend that ANY coliform in the milk indicates SOME contamination of fecal matter.  I started to feel disappointed in myself, and thinking that somehow I have failed to be as clean as I could/should be in my milking procedures.  I wanted to learn more about coliform bacteria, and I found this information from UC Davis:

Coliform Bacteria

The coliform group of bacteria comprises all aerobic and facultatively anaerobic, gram-negative nonspore forming rods capable of fermenting lactose with the production of acid and gas at 90°F (32°C) within 48 hours. While the general source of these organisms is commonly accepted to be the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals, it is emphasized that bacteria of both fecal and non-fecal origin are members of this group. Typically, these organisms are classified in the genera Escherichia and Enterobacter (formerly Aerobacter); but, in addition, a few lactose-fermenting species of other genera are included in the group. In proportion to the numbers present, the existence of any of these types in dairy products is suggestive of unsanitary conditions or practices during production, processing or storage. 

Coliform Count

The coliform bacteria count is used as an index of the level if sanitation and/or water quality employed in the handling and processing of milk products. Coliforms have significance in milk and milk products because (1) they are easily killed during pasteurization and because (2) they are generally regarded to originate from the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals. Hence, the presence of coliform bacteria in pasteurized milk products is suggestive of unsanitary conditions or practices during processing, packaging; maximum standards for number of coliforms have until now been set at a maximum of 10 per milliliter of gram in pasteurized milk and milk products; however, numbers in pasteurized dairy products should be less than 1 ml., as is the case with up to 90% of samples, if packaging procedures are correct. California standard allows no more than 750 coliforms per mL in raw milk. Less than 100 is considered acceptable. 

So, I discussed the possibilities of ways the milk is becoming contaminated with my friend and reviewed my milking procedures on the cow board.  Here's the ongoing discussion:


If you don't want to visit the link, here are my procedures:

1. Brush cow all over, special attention to underbelly and udder.
2. Using hot water with a gurgle-glug of vinegar in it, wash cow's udder. Never double-dip, special attention given to the teat openings. I use a stack of clean white rags (washed in my "brightest whites" cycle with a gurgle-glug of chlorine bleach added to the wash load) and wash until the rag comes back clean.
3. Dry the udder with a clean, dry rag.
4. Milk the cow.
5. Strain the milk into clean glass jars using a stainless steel milk strainer and disposable milk filter.
6. Wash up: rinse in lukewarm water until the water is clear, wash in hot soapy water with a dedicated milk brush (brush is only used on the INSIDE of pails), air dry.

Jars are washed similarly - lukewarm rinse, run through dishwasher (or hand-washed in hot soapy water) with heated dry. If hand-washed, jars are rinsed with 1 T bleach per gallon of water and allowed to air dry.

My friend, and the members of the cow board first told me to look at my water.  That could very well be the source of the problem.  When the water was brought to my attention, I remembered that when I moved to this house almost 2 years ago, I had to shock my well 3 times to get the coliform bacteria at acceptable levels.  I'm also a cloth diapering mama, and have had problems with diapers stinking.  I took care of my diaper problem by adding a small amount of chlorine bleach to my hot cycle, and it has worked.  Now that I have my test results, I have been alerted to a potential problem with my well.  I'm going to take a water sample to the lab for evaluation.  I want that coliform count in my milk (and water) to be ZERO!!!

I was told by my friend that all milk test results are a matter of public record, and that she has requested copies and found some farms with coliform counts of 150!!!  I'm glad it's not that bad!  She reminded me that I did well for my first test, and not to feel bad.  I am glad for the testing, because I really do want to have the safest, highest quality milk possible.  If not for the test, I may not have known there was a problem.  Now I have a starting point for improvement.

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Test Results!

After the low expectations given me by the sample collector, I really wondered how hard it was to pass the milk tests.  I was worried I wouldn't pass.  Well, today my worries  have been allayed by the results.  Not only did I pass, I passed with flying colors!

Standard Plate Count (total bacteria)
I needed to have less than 15,000 mg/l to pass the test.  Well, my results were lower than their test could even detect, at <2,500 mg/l.

Coliform bacteria
To pass the test I needed to have a figure less than 25 /ml.  Mine was 12 /ml.

Of course, my cow's milk tested negative, and that is the standard.

Somatic Cell Count (test can indicate mastitis infection in the udder)
I needed to have less than 500,000 /ml to pass the test.  I had 190,000 /ml.

I needed to have milk between 33*F and 40*F.  Mine was at 33*F at the initial test.  After transporting to the lab, my milk was at 1.7*C (or 35.06*F).

So, the milk you are drinking is very, very safe!  (And tastes great, too!)  I haven't heard anything about the brucellosis ring test results yet, but my cow was vaccinated, so I am hoping there won't be any problem. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

First Milk Test

Yesterday I had my first state milk test.  I'll find out the results by Monday the 19th.  This is what they are looking for when they test the milk:

On site, the milk is tested for temperature, and mine was at 33*F, almost a little too low... I don't want to freeze it!  After the temperature test, it is placed in sterile plastic vials and transported to the lab for the remaining tests.  The woman who took the sample told me not to be surprised if I don't pass the first time.  She said it's rare that anyone passes all the tests the very first time.  She also said she would do a brucellosis ring test, even though my cow has been vaccinated for brucellosis, and that since my cow is a jersey, she may not pass.  She said the rich jersey milk somehow skews the test to give false positives.  Well, I'm very interested to see how we did, especially with the stellar expectations she gave me.  I'll post when I get the results. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This is where your milk comes from

Here she is, Ruby.  My 7 year old jersey cow.  I bought her mom, Fancy, when she was 11 years old and pregnant with Ruby.  Fancy was a good, wonderful cow from a jersey dairy in Emmett Idaho.  This dairy treats all their cows like members of their family.  It's like cow heaven!  Anyway, Fancy was 11 years old and pregnant with Ruby when I bought her.  She calved with no problems on July 27, 2006, and I was delighted to have a new heifer.  Sadly, two years later, Fancy's arthritis was becoming very painful for her, so I put her down.  I salvaged the meat, because I don't believe in being wasteful.  When her abdominal cavity was opened up, all her organs were adhered to the abdominal lining, so she probably didn't have long to live, anyway, and it was good that I was a wise steward.

Anyway, back to Ruby... she's been with me since the day she was born, and has never known any cruelty or harsh treatment.  She's a beautiful cow, content, and calm.  I smooth her path in life, and she gives back so generously, with over 6.5 gallons of milk everyday!  I'm a blessed cow mama!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Milk and Egg Customer Instructions and information

Milk Jar washing instructions:

  1. Always rinse milk jars in lukewarm water right away.   Use lukewarm water, because hot makes milk proteins stick to the jar, and cold makes butterfat stick to the jar. Do not allow milk to dry in the jar.  Milk proteins stick to the jar when dried on.  You can’t see them, but they build up over time and can cause off-flavors in the milk.  Special dairy acid can remove milk protein build-up.  I rinse all jars with dairy acid twice per year.  Even if you can’t do a full washing of a jar right away, always rinse it with lukewarm water immediately.  Rinse until the water appears clear, not opaque.   
  2.  If you have a dishwasher, run the jar through a full cycle, with a heated dry.  If you do not have a dishwasher, hand wash with hot, soapy water, preferably with a brush, or all stainless steel scrubbing pad, rather than a sponge or rag.  Sponges and rags are notorious for carrying numerous bacteria.  If you can have a dedicated brush or ss scrubbing pad for this purpose that would be best.  After hand washing, rinse with 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach per 1 gallon water. 
  3.  Allow the jar to dry completely before replacing the lid.  If any moisture is in the jar, it will be a medium for bacterial growth, and will soon be bad enough to gag a maggot.  Blegh!

Thank you for taking the time to clean your jars as per my instructions.  It saves  me so much time, and protects you, me, and all the rest of my customers from getting sick (or just having milk that tastes "off")!

For your information:

  • My raw milk ISDA permit number is RCM 061. The milk you are buying is raw, unpasteurized, whole milk. 
  •  My cattle have been tested for tuberculosis and vaccinated for brucellosis.  The milk is tested at least 4 times every 6 months by the Department of Agriculture.  Each batch must be negative for drugs (medications for the cows) and must meet coliform bacteria and somatic cell count standards.  Milk must also be cooled to 40F quickly.  I do this by placing the milk into an ice water bath inside my refrigerator.  Usually it reaches 40F within 30 minutes. 
  •  Milk jar deposits are $4 per jar.  If at any time you choose to discontinue buying milk, your $4 deposit per jar is 100% refundable, with the return of jars with lids in good condition.  You can avoid paying the $4 per jar fee if you purchase the exact same jars and fitting lids that I use, and bring them to me.  They can be purchased at Container and Packaging Supply in Eagle, Idaho.  The website is www.containerandpackaging.com and the product number is G004 for the jar.  Lids are L247 (in any color), or L465.  Do not purchase the type of lids with liners.  Bring the number of jars you plan on using per week. 
  •  Please contact me 208-794-5016 (text or Facebook) 24 hours before you plan to pick up milk so that I can write your name on the jars.  I need to rotate milk, and the most effective way for me to do this is by marking the jars with your name.  Just tell me how many gallons you want.  Sometimes it can be several days before I have any milk available, depending on what orders I have already received, but I will fill your order as soon as possible, inform you what day I have milk available, and will tell you if there is ever a problem with your order. 
  •  Please write yourself a receipt when you pick up your milk and eggs (I need a copy for my records), place payment in the envelope provided and put it into the cash box.  You will need to bring exact change, or write a check.  If you wish to pay using paypal, my paypal email address is Laura@bestbirth.com and you must send the payment as a gift, so that I will not be charged a service fee.  If using paypal, payment must be made within 24 hours of picking up your milk, and please make out a receipt and mark it “Paypal” so that I will know to look for your payment.  Clean, return jars should be placed on the counter, to the left of the sink.  Also, please take note of the refrigerator temperature, and alert me (text or Facebook me) if it is above 40F. 
  • Prices for 2014 are as follows.  Milk is $6.50/gallon.  Eggs are $2.50/doz.  Jar deposits are $4 per jar.  If you bring 20 empty egg cartons in good condition, you may have a free dozen eggs, but please make a note of it on the receipt.  If a jar breaks while in your possession, the lid is still usable to me, so go ahead and bring it back, please.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Why Elliott's Emerald Acre?

Elliott's Emerald Acre is named "Emerald" because my animals eat green pasture, and I name my cattle after precious gems.  "Elliott" is my son who died unexpectedly, from unknown causes, at age 19 months.  I have some really wonderful friends, and they helped me come up with a name for my farm, and even created the label you see above.  It's nice to be able to see his picture, see his name, type his name, and say his name, even though he's not here with me and my husband and children.  We believe we will be with him, in the flesh, in the morning of the first resurrection.