Commentary: Dairying is a privilege, not a right

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Finally, someone articulated what I have been thinking for years. Here is what a reader from Vermont had to say following a story we ran about the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments failing to adopt a stricter SCC standard in the U.S.:

“…It is absolutely stupid that the industry doesn’t take advantage of an opportunity to enhance its image and the quality of its product! Does someone think that dairy farming is a “right”? No, it is a privilege and those who want to continue sloppy practices need to get better or get out!” the reader said. 

This comes up from time to time. Whenever we support the idea of a stricter somatic cell count standard, we get phone calls from people who complain that a stricter standard would put them out of business. This past Monday, I got a call from a dairy farmer in Florida who said it’s difficult for him to keep SCC down without free-stall barns. He mentioned the problems he has with Florida’s heat and humidity and that a 400,000 cell/ml somatic cell count standard would force him out of business.

I got another call from a producer who blamed his somatic cell count problems on stray voltage.

I try to be sympathetic, but at the same time wonder if these aren’t just excuses. If someone has decided to go into farming, then he or she has to accept the consequences and “take ownership.”  He can’t expect the rest of the dairy industry to remain stagnant, with out-of-date quality standards, just because he has his own particular problems. The industry needs to move on, with or without him.

Yet, some people believe it’s their “right” to be dairy farmers.

Not everyone is qualified to produce food for human consumption. It is a privilege, not a right. Dairy farmers have a tremendous responsibility to produce a safe, wholesome product that meets quality standards.

Technically, a person can conform to standards when the standards are low, as currently is the case with a 750,000 somatic cell count limit. But that is not a good position to be in, long-term. Some co-ops now require producers to meet a 400,000 standard, and our international trading partners expect it, as well. I personally think the day will come when big retailers like Wal-Mart begin demanding it.

A vast majority of the dairy farms in the U.S. are producing milk at or below a 400,000 somatic cell count — or at least they’re capable of it.

The burden of proof needs to be on those who can’t meet the quality standards. They shouldn’t hold the majority back. 

Selling a food product through public commerce is a privilege, not a right.

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California  |  July, 07, 2011 at 03:29 PM

I was in the dairy business most of my life and when I managed dairies I found the management of scc a constant battle, but one that paied dividends. I agree that to be in the business is a privlage. Get used to doing a better job or find a new one.

ny  |  June, 27, 2012 at 07:31 PM

We own and operate a dairy in central NY. And have battleing a high SCC and my husband told the milk inspector that he knew the three cows that proably where doing it and she said get rid of them, well that is better said then done when they are the three with the most milk production, and he also told her that when milk is at 15 dollars a hundred it isn't even covering the cost of the feed, so you tell me why any farmer should give a s*** in these times when you don't get nothing for the products we are producing, we have a very clean barn, everything is done right and it is a family farm and we are the only ones doing the chores, not like these milk malls who the big guy proably dosen't even step foot in the barn to get dirty. I would like to know what big fat cat is raking in the money for this stupid new law for dairy farmers, they just want to get rid of the little guys so the malls can get biggger, we have nobody in the government who cares about the little guys or proably who has never been on a farm at all. The american consumer thinks that all dairy farmers are rich and getting richer and that we sit in our big tractors and do no physical labor at all. Well this is one dairy wife who is fed up with all of this bull and will not take people like you thinking farmers are lazy dirty people who can't take care of out cows or the cleaning equipment, come work on our farm for a day and see how the real people live, you say you where in the dairy business most of your life why don't you try owning a farm and doing some of the physical stuff and the stress when this stuff comes up and then you can comment on something you really don't know nothing at all do you

Andy Schaap    
Hereford TX  |  July, 08, 2011 at 09:24 AM

I agree. I wish consumers would pay attention to true quality standards like "Somatic cell counts", Instead of imaginary quality standards like "Organic".

t a holton    
amite la 70422  |  July, 12, 2011 at 11:11 AM

I diagree with this editorial. Dairying is neither a privilege or right, it is a way of life that certain people choose as their job for life. There are some that like to be called dairymen, they start a dairy and pay someone to do the work. There are some that can't leave the shadow of there daddy, so they milk with their daddy. Then there are those such as myself that do the work themselves with help from hired help when it can be afforded. In my opinion, the only reason for lowering the SCC is for someone to make money and it won't be the dairymen. Instead of trying to convince people SCC is a quality issue by constantly repeating it show us some proof. I realize that most people in this business that depend on '' experts'' to help them milk will disagree , but thanks for allowing me to vent my frustrations, as I tried to do the same with Hoards Dairyman on this very subject and they refused to print my letter.

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