From low-fat yogurt parfaits for breakfast to fresh farmer’s cheese for an evening dessert—dairy products are nutritious, natural and in demand. Thanks in part to the health halo of dairy products, consumption is on the rise in many parts of the world. This is great news for the dairy industry, but puts a great responsibility on farmers to deliver more milk that is of increasingly high quality and safety standards.
I am an antibiotic testing specialist and a veterinarian by training, and have witnessed firsthand the challenges that dairy farmers encounter as their businesses grow. Larger herds are more complicated and require more people to manage. As the herd size grows, so does the risk that cows will become ill, require treatment, and that traces of antibiotics will appear in their milk. I am a great proponent of responsible use of antibiotics. At the same time, I am thinking about animal welfare and that antibiotics are needed to help our cows recover from infections and prevent needless suffering.
Regulations about antibiotics in the milk supply are very strict, and for good reason. Milk that contains traces of antibiotics could spoil dairy products such as yogurt and cheese or worse, cause a deadly reaction in a consumer who is allergic to antibiotics. More broadly, repeated human exposure to antibiotics could contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance that impedes our ability to treat human infections. Our regulatory systems are very good at preventing this from happening, but as it stands, many thousands of dairy farmers are fined every year for supplying milk that contains traces of antibiotics above regulatory limits. In some cases, the collection tanker is contaminated, which means a tanker of milk wasted and financial consequences for individual farmers as well as considerable losses for the industry.
We can prevent these losses by changing the way we test for antibiotics, and implementing testing programs not only at the tanker level, but at the farm level as well. This requires a coordinated effort across the value chain and we have seen many successful examples of this in some parts of the world. We see in such programs that farmers benefit by safeguarding deliveries, preventing costly fines and helping them to better meet the requirements of governments and consumers, thereby building and retaining trust. Many farmers have been successful in finding the right method for doing this and ways of working that are simple yet effective and not too costly. It is vital that testing is done in the right conditions, and for the right reasons. I advise farmers to work with their veterinarian every step of the way to rationally manage antibiotic use on their farm. When protocols are changed, it is useful to test the milk to make sure there are no antibiotics in the milk, even after the withholding period.
If more farmers in more parts in the world test for antibiotics residues in the milk, I believe the dairy industry can continue its journey of supplying ever more safe, healthy and sustainably produced dairy products while reducing unnecessary waste.
What do you think? How are you managing antibiotic use in your dairy operations?
Product Application Expert for Antibiotic Residue Testing, DSM Food Specialties.
Responsible for bringing the world more safe milk and proving support along the dairy chain from the farm to the dairy. I am proud to be working for a company that makes existing diets healthier and more sustainable and helps to create food that people around the world can truly enjoy without compromises. Everywhere – every day I work to enable our customers to respond faster with better food - for everyone.