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Friday, January 4, 2008

Milk-Discussion #1

Hmmm…it’s hard to know where to begin to discuss milk. I could begin with prices, or with how much we use personally or how to store it, or just the milk itself. I didn’t realize it was going to be quite this complicated to write about, now that I think of it. Maybe I will just make it in chapters.

Let’s begin with pricing and production.

We get paid per hundred weight; which means that for every hundred pounds we are paid so much. Back a few months ago we were only getting about $11 per lb (which husband says was about what he was getting 20 years ago when he started). That was when, I believe, retail milk was going for close to $3 a gallon. I think retail milk is in some places, close to, if not over, $4 p/ gal, but I am not sure since I don’t buy it and rarely ever price it. I believe at this point, since DFA (Dairy Farmers of America) has done some tweaking to the market, it has gone up a few dollars, but I am not sure exactly what it is as it tends to fluctuate. That what it was a couple months ago at least.

Every time the milk man picks up our milk (every other day) he takes a sample of it which goes to the lab to be tested for various things. We get a bonus or get docked money depending on our “counts.” The PI count is the bacteria count in the milk. That doesn’t allow us any bonus, but we don’t have any problems with that. (We go through a gallon of bleach in a bit less than a week, for cleaning the milking system and all.) Then there’s the somatic cell count; if it’s below a certain level you get bonus bucks. The SCC is just the count of the white blood cells in the milk. You just have to keep your herd healthy.

As far as production goes right now the girls are being fairly cooperative and are averaging around 2800 lbs of milk every other day. We get a bonus for higher milk fat content and they are also complying with that. I think the last test showed that milk fat was about 4.13%. I am trying to remember this off the top of my head, so don’t write this in granite.

Generally milk production slacks off in winter and in summer. The don’t produce as much in winter because there isn’t as much foraging and grazing available, but the milk fat goes way up because they are on expensive and rich alfalfa hay. (Nothing smells as good as alfalfa hay, but it makes their umm…”exhaust” from both ends smell funny. I can always tell when I go into the milk barn during milking when husband has started feeding them alfalfa.) During spring flush, when the grass starts growing, their production goes sky high (meaning that milk fat plummets), year before last they overflowed the milk tank a few times. We had to let quite a few gallons just go down the drain. I tried to collect as much as I could and make butter, but I only have so much time, energy and fridge space. In summer the girls get too hot and just hang out in the creek bottom in the shade and chew their cud, they hardly graze and so they don’t produce much milk at all.

More later.

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