Milky goodness (and why we're not 'organic')

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Posted in Milk
on September 16, 2013
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We never started out wanting to bottle our own milk. We didn’t really consider it to be a possibility until a few years ago. The thing is, we had always just been Dairy Farmers. We milked our cows, the tanker arrived to take the milk to the processing plant and we got a cheque in the mail! It wasn’t until a few years ago that we seriously started considering it as a business option.

We have always know we have amazing milk…not only is it clean – as in no physical dirt or medication in it – but it is also particularly clear of the bacteria that can sometimes be found in raw milk. How do we know?? We test it. Every time the tanker arrives to collect our milk, a sample is taken. We get a cell count and plate count. Generally a lower somatic cell count indicates better animal health, while the bacteria plate count indicates improved equipment sanitation. We have always prided ourselves on having very low readings for both our cell and plate counts and have been recorded as one of the cleanest dairy producers in NSW.

Now that we pasteurise and bottle our own milk, we are responsible for the testing of it. You have to pass and comply with A LOT of strict conditions to be a licensed Dairy Processor in NSW. It is not an easy process and when we were awarded our license by the NSW Food Authority it was a major moment of achievement! We follow strict procedures to ensure our milk stays as fresh as possible and it undergoes regular testing for things like antibiotic residue and bacteria.

But we take it much further than that. We have a vested interest in knowing exactly what’s happening with our cows. We ‘start’ each of our cows by hand (expressing milk) so if they show any signs of mastitis, or we think there may be something wrong, we can immediately identify the problem and take appropriate action. This is the main reason we aren't going to be classified as an 'Organic' producer. To be an organic producer in NSW you must follow even stricter guidelines including the restricted use of vaccines and medication in our cows. Obvisouly we do our best to prevent any diseases by using good animal husbandry but if one of our girls is unwell; if they need medication or veterinary assistance; we act quickly. And because we milk such a small herd and know each of our cows so well we can quickly adjust their milking routine to accommodate them in the herd. If one of our cows does receive medication, we milk them individually and make sure that milk isn’t included in the vat with the other milk. So there is never any chance of medication residue finding its way into our milk.

For us to be 'certified organic', we feel, would not be in the best interest of our herd.

From the cows the milk travels to a cooled vat and then we pump it – slowly – to the processing room. Why slowly? Well, milk is a fairly fragile liquid. It is made up of different proteins that are vulnerable to things like force and heat. When you pump it very quickly, creating bubbles and froth, you slightly alter the structure of the milk. Much like whipping egg whites creates a different product, so does whipping milk. We handle our milk gently because we want it to stay as close to the original structure as possible. The next step is Pasteurisation – the heating of milk until it reaches a certain temperature for a certain time frame before rapidly cooling it down. It is illegal to sell unpasteurised milk for human consumption in Australia, and although some companies have found a ‘loop hole’ by selling their raw milk ‘for cosmetic purposes’ – we have no desire to follow this path.

What we CAN do, is choose the legal parameters which least alter the milk. Most companies pasteurise their milk at 79*C for 15 seconds. We pasteurise our milk at a lower temperature for a longer time. We have played around with different temps and could definitely taste the difference – the milk pasteurised at 79°C tasted like ….cooked milk!! Where as the lower temps kept the original taste of the milk – as long term raw milk drinkers (its not illegal to drink raw milk if it comes from a cow you own) you get very good at tasting the difference!

Once the milk is pasteurised and cooled we bottle it ourselves, one bottle at a time. We take care to individually cap and label the milk before it’s transferred to the storage fridge and, ultimately, to our wonderful retailers!

It sounds like a fairly lengthy process, but it really only takes about 5 hours from actually milking the cow to the milk being available on the shelf!! That’s pretty darn fresh!! 

So thats a little bit about our milk. If you would like to know more about Organic Regulations you can read them HERE, or feel free to ask questions!

Till next time.....