Quality milk_ eh_ by sdaferv


            By BILL DIMMICK

            Quality milk, eh!
  Ontario rolls out pilot for new prevention-based national program

                                                                                   A     few times over the years,
                                                                                         .Ken Weitzel has had to
                                                                                   dump part of a bulk tank of
                                                                                   milk because the cooler got
                                                                                   left off overnight. He actually
                                                                                   inquired about a warning sys-
                                                                                   tem when he had a new tank
                                                                                   installed about two years ago
                                                                                   but a local dealer suggested he
                                                                                   really didn’t need it.
                                                                                       Now Ken has one with a
                                                                                   warning light and firmly
                                                                                   endorses it. The light is “pretty
                                                                                   hard to miss. If something goes
                                                                                   wrong, you’ll know,” he says.
                                                                                      The warning system was
                                                                                   installed on his farm recently
                                                                                   as part of the new National
                                                                                   Quality Assurance Program.
                                                                                   Dairy Farmers of Ontario
                                                                                   (DFO) rolled out the program
                                                                                   over the summer as a pilot pro-
                                                                                       Ken also likes the time-tem-
                                                                                   perature recorder that was
                                                                                   installed. It lets him keep tabs
                                                                                   on the bulk tank, showing tem-
                                                                                   peratures at given times. As
Ken Weitzel checks the time-temperature recorder installed as part of the quali-
                                                                                   well, it reveals whether wash
ty assurance pilot project rolled out by Dairy Farmers of Ontario.                 cycles of the complete system,

                                                                                   ONTARIO MILK PRODUCER, SEPTEMBER 2001   29
                                                                                       experience in implementing the pro-
                                                                                       gram. There’s also the opportunity to
                                                                                       work out administration details and
   Ken checks wash line and tank                                                       find ways to improve it, explains
                                                                                       George MacNaughton, DFO’s farm
   temperatures regularly now—difficult                                                policies and field services manager.
                                                                                           For the last several years, indus-
                                                                                       tries from electronics to food process-
   to do without the recorder.                                                         ing, along with some agricultural
                                                                                       commodities, have been developing
                                                                                       quality programs based on HACCP,
                                                                                       short for Hazard Analysis Critical
including pipeline, were done prop-          confidence that everything’s working      Control Points. Dairy Farmers of
erly.                                        properly,” he says.                       Canada (DFC) was responsible for
    Ken checks the wash line and                 The pilot project in which Ken’s      initially developing a program at the
tank temperatures regularly now—             participating includes the farms of all   national level so dairy farmers could
difficult to do without the recorder.        DFO board members. Ken’s wife             implement HACCP-type principles
Not long after the recorder was              Sharon is DFO’s board member for          on their farms.
installed, he found one instance             Region 10, representing Huron and             In the case of milk production,
when the milking system wasn’t               Perth counties. The couple milks 34       explains MacNaughton, the pro-
washed properly. It turned out that a        cows in a tie-stall operation near        gram’s goal has been to review on-
tap had been left on inadvertently.          Stratford in Perth.                       farm practices and establish standard
    He compares the recorder to the              The pilot project could be            operating procedures. Having every-
transfer line safety switches producers      expanded later. Eventually, DFO envi-     one on the farm following these pro-
had to install some years ago to keep        sions all dairy farms in the province     cedures greatly increases the likeli-
wash water out of bulk tanks. “I really      being on the prevention-based quali-      hood of producing top-quality milk.
like it (the recorder). It gives you         ty program. The pilot will provide            A regular study that DFO con-

           A milk quality assurance sampler
D    FO will be rolling out the national quality assurance
     program in stages. The first stage would cover areas
 deemed to have to the greatest quality benefits. These
                                                                  withdrawal times. Storage of these medicines is part of
                                                                  the package too. Proper use and storage of pesticides,
                                                                  treated seed and fertilizer are other key items.
 are animal identification, livestock medicines and pesti-
 cides management and milking procedures. A workbook              Cow Environment. This area covers manure manage-
 developed for the Canadian Quality Assurance Program             ment that ensures cattle cleanliness.
 provides a ready reference. Note that good record-keep-
 ing is needed in all these areas:                                Water. Since milk is 87 per cent water, you need to
                                                                  ensure that what your cattle drink is of good quality. You
 Cattle Identification. You must identify all cattle on your      also need to ensure you’re using good quality water, free
 farm under the National Livestock Identification pro-            from harmful bacteria, to clean your equipment.
 gram. As well you need to identify them for keeping your         Maintaining water quality includes regular testing.
 own records.
                                                                  Milking Management, Cooling and Storage. This is where
 Biosecurity. You need a plan to prevent the introduction         the time-temperature recorder is invaluable for checking
 of infectious disease to your herd. The plan should              proper operation of milking systems. Inspecting equip-
 include provisions for reducing the risk of spreading dis-       ment regularly for cleanliness and other maintenance is
 eases that may already be present. Mastitis treatment and        part of it too. As well, this area includes using standard
 prevention are a big part of biosecurity as well.                operating procedures for milking and taking steps to
                                                                  deal with mastitis.
 Livestock Medicines. As proposed, you or a farm employ-
 ee would have to complete a Livestock Medicines course           Training and Communication. You need a written plan to
 successfully to be part of Ontario’s quality assurance pro-      ensure everyone involved in the operation knows and
 gram (see Quality Corner, page 16 for details). Among the        understands responsibilities. This includes responses to
 quality assurance criteria are administering livestock           situations that could compromise the safety of the milk
 medicines, keeping records of their use and observing            and meat you produce.

  Regular sanitation of equipment, left, is a standard procedure on most farms now. Right, all cattle must be identified.

ducts on public attitudes towards              On the Weitzel farm, three other      is crucial.
milk shows many consumers have             people besides Ken could be respon-           “Staff found a risk in the way we
concerns about product quality, pro-       sible for a particular milking. “I’ve     handled dry cows,” Bruce says. “The
duction practices and animal welfare,      been doing it (milking) for years but     solution was simple. It was just a mat-
MacNaughton notes. A HACCP-based           someone else may miss some of the         ter of identifying a treated animal
system can re-assure consumers that        steps. This way, all they have to do is   better by putting a mark on her leg
quality safeguards are in place. This      check the procedures and they can         for identification between treatment
has the potential to increase sales        ensure the milking is done properly.”     and separation from the milking
and market share.                              When you start documenting your       herd.”
     Individual farms should also bene-    procedures, you realize how many              The farm was already using a
fit. “There are many quality defects       steps there are, he says. He’s already    blackboard in the barn to show which
that result in partial or whole bulk       been fine-tuning them to ensure the       animals had received antibiotic treat-
tanks of milk being discarded on           wording is clear.                         ments. But the review also recom-
farms,” he says. “Reducing these               There were no real changes need-      mended improvements to permanent
occurrences will improve profitability.”   ed for his procedures in the areas of     record keeping of antibiotic use.
     Another big part of the program       cleanliness and sanitation. However, a        “Better record keeping raises your
is having producers documenting            staff review did identify a risk in       awareness,” Bruce says. And, once it’s
procedures used on their individual        antibiotic treatment record keeping.      set up, it’s just a matter of minutes,
farms, MacNaughton says. “Most             While Ken identified treated cows to      not hours, a week to keep up to date.
farms have standard operating proce-       keep inhibitors out of the bulk tank,         He’s been close to the quality pro-
dures. If I had to milk your cows          the review found he needed to do a        gram since it was at the idea stage. A
tonight, for example, you’d be able        better job of recording treatment         DFO representative at DFC, he
to tell me what to do. The only real       dates.                                    chaired the Canadian Quality Milk
change for you, under this program,            Staff made a similar recommenda-      Steering Committee. This group
would be to write it down so I could       tion to Bruce Saunders, DFO’s vice-       oversaw the program’s inception, a
follow your directions precisely.”         chairman, also board member for           pilot project on British Columbia
     Many dairy farmers might balk at      Region 11, which covers Grey and          dairy farms and progress through to
having to write out instructions on        Bruce counties. The Saunders family       the current stage.
how to milk and tend cows. “When           farm milks 150 cows in a free-stall           As a producer, he sees real merit
you first get into it, you wonder why,”    operation. With up to four family         in the program just from a farm man-
says Ken Weitzel. “Now, I can see          members and an employee involved          agement standpoint. “It’s encourages
where it has real value.”                  in milking, having proper procedures      a better management style. It lets you

                                                                                     ONTARIO MILK PRODUCER, SEPTEMBER 2001   31
                                                                                      stage and is ready for printing. The
                                                                                      steering committee’s work essentially
                                                                                      is done and now an implementation
   “Very few producers would have to                                                  committee is needed, Bruce says.
                                                                                      Implementation would include pro-
   change much, if anything, in the way                                               gram certification by the Canadian
                                                                                      Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
                                                                                          In Ontario, DFO has to get CFIA
   they do things now.”                                                               that the province’s proposal meets
                                                                                      government quality assurance
                                                                                      requirements. As well, DFO will be
                                                                                      spreading the word to grassroots pro-
identify risks and solve problems            ducers would have to change much if      ducers. Quality assurance will be a
before they happen.”                         anything in the way they do things       major topic at the annual Geneva
    The Saunders farm has had a              now. It’s a matter of putting on paper   Park policy conference this fall.
time-temperature recorder since              what you do every day.”                      The program basically boils down
March 2000, installed by DFO to test            That’s where he sees benefits to      to these key points, Bruce says. They
the equipment before the pilot pro-          assuring the quality of milk you pro-    are:
ject rollout in Ontario. It’s already
proved its worth. After three or four
days, Bruce explains, you can identify
a regular pattern. If there’s a devia-
tion, you know there’s a problem.
    Such deviations have shown up
twice. “In both cases the blend tem-
perature in the tank during milking
was higher than normal,” says Bruce.
    “ We identified a solenoid on a
plate that remained closed and
wouldn’t open. We were able to find
the problem and have it fixed.
Another example was when we dis-
covered the bottom compressor of
our two-compressor bulk tank wasn’t
    Bruce figures these problems
would have been discovered eventual-
ly but the recorder provided an early
warning, before the farm had to lose
a tank of milk.
    That’s a big part of the thinking          Employee Steve Williamson checks procedures posted in the Weitzel barn.
behind quality assurance. “I could
foresee this program, if implemented
provincially, could easily save a few        duce and safeguarding your income.       • say what you do (written and post-
hundred bulk tanks of milk per year,”        “What it (the program) does is raise     ed procedures);
he says.                                     the profile of risks your operation      • do what you say (follow those pro-
    On his farm, saving just one             faces and how you should deal with       cedures);
7,000-litre tank, worth more than            them.”                                   • prove it (keep records).
$3,500, would more than cover the                The program is gaining accep-           If there is a problem, correct it
capital costs of the equipment               tance, he adds. In July, after DFC’s     and record when it was corrected.
involved (DFO is currently investigat-       annual meeting, producer delegates          “We have a good product, a quality
ing equipment from various manu-             attended a quality assurance work-       product, but we need to prove it to
facturers. Cost estimates range from         shop. Producers from almost all          the consumer,” Bruce says. “This pro-
$750 to $2,500).                             provinces spoke positively about how     gram, in effect, allows us to prove it.”
    Aside from capital costs, however,       they would be implementing the pro-
producers might be leery of having to        gram at home.
follow set procedures. Bruce is quick            At the national level, the program   Bill Dimmick is editor of
to allay such concerns. “Very few pro-       manual has reached the final draft       Ontario Milk Producer.


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