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 He can’t expect the rest of the dairy industry to remain stagnant, with out-of-date quality standards, just because he has his own particular problems.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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K. Larry Smith    
Apple Creed, Ohio  |  June, 17, 2011 at 10:11 AM

Right on, right on!! Excellent commentary.

MD  |  June, 17, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Fantastic article!!! Improving management, and care of your animals, and THEREFORE a quality product should be our practiced gold standard!! Great article. More people need to speak up.

idaho  |  June, 17, 2011 at 10:46 AM

if you are shipping milk over 400,000 SCC you don't have a dairy you have a hospital pen! It is interesting that fluid milk sales continue to be flat or declining even with an increasing population....could it be off flavor from high SCC herds? 95% of dairy farmers do a great job and care about the product they produce. It is time to remove the parasites that ship poor quality milk as they rely on good producers to blend with their poor quality milk to get it sold. Ford had a moto "Quality is job #1" and it drove the company to the next level. Perhaps we need to focus on quality to define US products on the global markets. What do we want for our future...value added marketing or a least cost race to the bottom in an industry that is not sustainable. We have listened to excuses for 30 years, the time for action is now!

Robert Miller    
Maryland  |  June, 17, 2011 at 12:28 PM

Good discussion. Though lowering cell count requires more care and attention, plenty of studies show that it pays off with increased profit.

John Maille    
Vermont  |  June, 17, 2011 at 01:07 PM

Hello, I do agree we need to regulate food and I am for food safety but, Look at the major food companies and how food is made and package to be sold in supermarkets. There is not much that I would consider say for human consumption in a supermarket. Specially when you have Chemical companies using GMO ingredients in food and not labeled. All the additives and perseverates and food coloring are all bad for our health, but do we or our government care? NO. I would rather drink raw milk from a local dairy farm then whats sold in a store.

G. Wright    
PA  |  June, 17, 2011 at 02:50 PM

Our average is well under the 400,000 and we consider the bonus we get for our quality to be important. Can all of you who think this is such a good idea garuantee that bonus is still going to be there if the legal limit is lowered?? The scc doesn't stay low by magic, it takes inputs that cost money and it's nice to actually get a little something back for those inputs. As for the EU; guess what, their motivation is to do everything in their means to keep imported dairy products out of their markets. Call me a cynic, but I'm not buying their scc's are as low as they'd like to make out they are since they have an entirely different way of gathering their numbers. My reaction to them is call their bluff and demand no more than 250,000 and watch them back pedal in a hurry. It would also take care of all this excess milk we're always griping about here too! Maybe you guys need to do a bit less chest-thumping about how great your operations are compared to everyone else and start demanding as an industry that our efforts to send a high quality product out the door be rewarded financially!! Oh, I forgot, we're dairy farmers and the word 'marketing' isn't in our vocabulary. We just make it and ship it for whatever somebody else will give us for it.


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