Farm to table: Where milk from my Illinois farm ends up
We raise dairy cows in St. Charles, IL – about 50 miles west of Chicago. Milk from our farm goes to the Dean Foods plant in Rockford to make soft products like sour cream and the single-serve cottage cheese cups with the mix-ins. Most dairy products like this stay local because of their expiration dates, so if you live in northern Illinois there’s a good chance these products in your grocery store came from our farm! Fun fact: You can find out which plant the dairy products in your fridge came from by using the lookup instructions on this website.
From farm to table, the safety of dairy products is monitored and regulated through many stages as milk makes its way to the end consumer. And our farm is no exception to regulations. We take a lot of measures to ensure we are providing a safe, healthy product to our community, and our farm gets regularly scheduled inspections to make sure we are doing a good job of that. We are responsible for routinely sanitizing our milking parlor and equipment, raising cows in an environment that keeps them comfortable and thriving, and responsibly using antibiotics in the cases when they are needed.
RESPONSIBLE ANTIBIOTIC USE
We work closely with our veterinarian and nutritionist to keep our cows healthy, including feeding our cows a carefully balanced diet and following a vaccination program to bolster their immune system. In the event that one of the cows is not feeling well, we diagnose and administer treatment under the supervision of our veterinarian.
Sometimes we are able to help a cow with supportive therapies – probiotics, fluids, etc. – that do not require us to discard her milk. However, sometimes we need to use a prescribed antibiotic. Every antibiotic used includes a script which lists a milk withhold period that we follow. A herd management computer program keeps an accurate log of a cow’s health status and any antibiotics she has received. Milk from the cow is discarded during this time and the robotic milkers are automatically sanitized to ensure there is no contamination of the next cow’s milk. Once the withhold period is up, we can sample the cow’s milk and run an on-farm test to confirm her milk is free from antibiotics before we stop discarding her milk.
As an added safety measure, every time Dean’s comes to pick up milk from our farm they take a sample to test for antibiotic residues. Additionally, the entire tanker truck of milk is tested and must be cleared before the milk can be unloaded at the plant. As you can see, there are multiple safeguards in place from farm to table to make sure the food leaving our farms is safe for our families to consume. If you still have questions about what we do, just ask. Our doors are always open.