Be a Safe Raw Milk Farmer
The passing of SB387 legalizing Herdshares for Raw Milk in West Virginia brings about the single biggest window for economic possibilities previously closed to the small farmer this state has likely ever witnessed.
As you know, the government has used propaganda to create fear around milk in its natural state to the point it creates near hysteria in some people. Thankfully, most people do know better.
Because of this and because any FOOD can become contaminated and any food bears risks that ultimately do come back on the producer, We, as farmers, MUST commit to offering only the best product from the healthiest animals possible.
We must commit to being fastidious about the health of the goats and cows we raise, we must commit to using the very best sanitation processes possible and realize that making mistakes will impact ALL herdshare farmers in this state and negatively impact the steps we've made along the path to true food freedom.
How you MILK for you IS NOT how you milk for HERDShare members.
Note: There are a lot of good arguments to be made for ONLY using a milking machine when actually operating a herdshare, and for me, having milked by hand and machine for many years, I have to say, I believe that the BEST bet is to use a machine, though I enjoy handmilking more. I realize everyone doesn't have the $1,500 or more to invest in a good set up right off, but I recommend you work toward a machine based milking set up.
1. Introduce and maintain only health animals from known background. Cull animals, auction animals or animals from huge farm sells are going to be a risk. Have solid bio-security measures in place to prevent disease outbreaks. Test the animals in your herd for communicable disease. Remove animals from the milking line up if they seem off or a clearly ill.
2. A Clean Milking Environment, sans POULTRY. Make sure no poultry have access to where you milk in any capacity, as this is going to greatly increase your risks of Campylobacter contamination.
3. You need to make sure your stainless steel buckets / pails are sterile at each milking, and you need to use an acid wash occasionally to remove the milk stone. I soak, handwash and run ours through the stainless steel dish washer and dry on a high heat cycle when I hand milk.
If using a machine, the lines should be silicone, ideally, and replace the lines and non-permanent parts more often if operating a share than if for personal use. This link has a fabulous video for cleaning your machine! and Alternative method is here.
If using a pail and handmilking, make sure to select some type of covering over the bucket. I use plastic, washable paint shield mesh.
4. A CLEAN Udder handled with clean hands. While you cannot scrub the cow or goat in the tub before milking, can surely can clean the udder very well. Fortunate for us, small farmers do not keep concentrated numbers of animals in poor conditions like massive factor farms, but even though our animals are clean, in general, WASH (with a gentle cleansing agent) and Dry the udder and teats with paper towels or a fresh towel before milking each time. ALWAYS strip the teats 2-3 squirts before you begin milking in a strip cup. Test strip milk periodically with the CMT mastitis test.
5. Strain the milk once or twice, and then Get that milk cool as fast as possible to ensure taste and ensure a low bacteria count. Goat's milk is especially fragile. Not only do the above steps and the following steps assure raw milk stays the safe product we know it is without contamination, but it makes sure the taste stays excellent, too! Real milk, if handled improperly, will taste off, even if it is still VERY safe. The quicker the milk cools, the longer it will last and taste fresh, too! Store milk in the back of the fridge and keep the temps low.
6. Make sure your storage jars are sterile. Do not overlook this step. Also, do not let share customers bring their own jars. Make them use jars you have cleaned and return the used one each week for a fresh jar and supply of milk. While some people argue letting the customer bring their own jar helps negate liability to them, I feel it is best to just make sure you present a clean, safe jar you oversaw the cleaning of. DO NOT reuse plastic milk jugs. You can purchase new pastic milk jugs in bulk with sealed caps you apply, and this works for cow's milk. Goat's milk tastes terrible, I feel, when stored in plastic. For goat's milk, defer to glass storage.
7. If you transport milk to meet share customers, remember the temp concerns! For a great overview of 6 and 7 steps, visit this link.
4 other links for Well reviewed Safe Raw Milk Handling DVDs and Books: