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Old 04-25-2012, 10:24 AM   #1
lungs
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Today's Lesson From the Farm (Antibiotics and Pasteurization)

Periodically, I post situations I encounter on the farm. Most don't necessarily have any consumer implications but yesterday I had a perfect example that perhaps consumers can understand better why I do what I do.

Two issues that have come up with frequency in the dairy/consumer industry are antibiotic usage and pasteurized vs. raw milk. Let me first say I support the right of the consumer to consume raw milk but the risks should also be made clear and this case will illustrate that:


This here cow was in a world of hurt yesterday. She was running into walls and generally acting like I do after I've had a few too many rum and cokes. The employee that reported this to me even said he didn't know what her problem was but she was "borracho" (drunk in Spanish). Within ten seconds of looking at her, I made the diagnosis of listeriosis. It's a bacterial infection that attacks the brain and central nervous system. Left untreated, it would get progressively worse and eventually kill the cow. I've only seen it one time in six years of handling cattle, but that one time was enough to know it when I see it.

Diagnosis made, I went to my medicine cabinet and made a special concoction of the strongest antibiotics I have (oxytetracycline and sulfadimethoxine for the science/medical people). Got my IV kit out and gave her the concotion and sent her drunk, stumbling ass to my hospital barn (yes, I have a special barn for that).

Fast forward to this morning, I wasn't necessarily expecting much. Success rate of treatment is 50%, mostly depending on how early it's found. We must've caught this case early because she was standing and eating this morning. Almost all of her motor function is back. Where would she be without antibiotics? Walking aimlessly in circles until she couldn't walk anymore, followed by a slow, painful death.

The other factor in this case is bacterial shedding in her milk. She was more than likely shedding listeria in her milk before any symptoms occured. If I was selling my milk raw to the consumer, I'd likely have quite a mess on my hands. Pasteurization kills listeria. Hence, I have no worries about that tank of milk that I sent to the plant. Either way, due to the antibiotics administered, her milk won't be sold for human consumption until May 13th. She'll be contributing to the pool of milk I use to feed the baby calves (also pasteurized of course). As for May 14th onward, she'll be back to making milk for some good ole' Swiss cheese.


Last edited by lungs : 04-25-2012 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:09 AM   #2
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Great post. Very informative.

I like to read stuff like this because I buy my milk from a local farm.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:15 AM   #3
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I never understood the raw milk thing either. My sister-in-law's uncle was pushing her to feed her newborn raw milk. Fortunately, she told him no.

I don't care how much better it tastes, I'm not giving up the benefits of pasteurization.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:38 AM   #4
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Listeria sounds like it should be the title of a Def Leppard record.

Once again, I always love these posts. What's the deal with ultra-pasteurization. How is milk good for like 3 months.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:51 AM   #5
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I never understood the raw milk thing either. My sister-in-law's uncle was pushing her to feed her newborn raw milk. Fortunately, she told him no.

I don't care how much better it tastes, I'm not giving up the benefits of pasteurization.

Feeding a newborn raw milk borders on insanity if you ask me. Healthy adults drinking it is one thing. Their immune systems are better able to handle potential pathogens. And it's not as if knowing the farm you get it from will help. Things like listeria can crop up anywhere, anytime. And by the time you realize it, it may be too late.

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Listeria sounds like it should be the title of a Def Leppard record.

Once again, I always love these posts. What's the deal with ultra-pasteurization. How is milk good for like 3 months.

That pasteurization is 275 degrees for like 1-2 seconds where regular pasteurization is usually at 161 degrees for 15-20 seconds. The other method often used in home pasteurization is 145 degrees for 30 minutes.

I've never had any of the ulta-pasteurized milk so I can't vouch for the taste though from what I read it does alter taste.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:55 AM   #6
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I know you've never bought into the whole organic farming thing. Are you still skeptical of it?

By the way, I love these posts as well. Makes me think of my grandfather, who had a farm for while.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:17 PM   #7
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I know you've never bought into the whole organic farming thing. Are you still skeptical of it?

By the way, I love these posts as well. Makes me think of my grandfather, who had a farm for while.

An organic dairy farm can't use antibiotics. So this particular cow is probably pretty happy I'm not organic. She would be ineligible for organic production for the rest of her life when that antibiotic entered her bloodstream. If she was lucky, an organic farmer would have a non-organic herd on the side where she could go. Otherwise I don't know of any homeopathic treatment that would've saved her.

I'm still skeptical when it comes to the benefit of drinking organic milk. But it's also a good market for a smaller farmer looking to add value to his milk. Whether the benefits are there or not, there is a market for it. The problem is organic cows need to be fed organic food. Converting all my land to organic production would be cost prohibitive for minimal to even no gain in profitability (when loss in production is also added to the equation).
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:33 PM   #8
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Organic Milk does taste a lot better. It could be my justification for paying $4 a half gallon, though.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:44 PM   #9
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Organic Milk does taste a lot better. It could be my justification for paying $4 a half gallon, though.

Chocolate or white? I bought a half gallon of organic chocolate once and they must've used a different chocolate syrup as I could tell the difference (the organic had a more chocolate taste). I can't tell the difference between white milks but my taste buds are far from refined.
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Old 04-25-2012, 01:20 PM   #10
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The whole milk just tastes like the milk I remember from being a kid. Back when it had a flavor. There's not that much difference in 2%. I get on a granola kick every once in awhile and I pretty much only use the whole milk for that.
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Old 04-25-2012, 01:31 PM   #11
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Ahhh, it's the whole milk. If you like whole milk, you'd like milk from my cows. It's got more fat in it than regular whole milk. Whole milk is 3.25 percent fat while whole milk from my farm would be 4 percent. I've got individual cows that will even pump out 6-7% fat content.
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Old 04-25-2012, 01:36 PM   #12
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I've got individual cows that will even pump out 6-7% fat content.

So when you milk them it comes out as like butter straight from the source?

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Old 04-25-2012, 01:38 PM   #13
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mmmm Milk you can chew!!



wait, wouldn't that make it....cheese?
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Old 04-25-2012, 01:41 PM   #14
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mmmm Milk you can chew!!
wait, wouldn't that make it....cheese?

Hmm ... I guess you're right, that probably comes before butter.
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Old 04-25-2012, 01:43 PM   #15
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So when you milk them it comes out as like butter straight from the source?


Well, we're about 73-74% short of being real butter
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Old 04-25-2012, 02:58 PM   #16
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Lungs, you would be a hero if you bred a cow that produced chocolate milk.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:12 PM   #17
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Lungs, you would be a hero if you bred a cow that produced chocolate milk.

Very wealthy too.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:16 PM   #18
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Very wealthy too.

Lets get a move on this!
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:46 PM   #19
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My understanding is (and I'm posting it here so you can correct me, lungs) that the big dairy operations use antibiotics on a proactive, prophylactic basis, basically medicating the cows all or a lot of the time in order to prevent any infections. This is the main thing I hear people complaining/worrying about. Is that accurate?
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:49 PM   #20
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Single-handed classing up the joint, lungs. Nice work as always.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:53 PM   #21
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It sucks that the economics simply aren't really there for a small farm to make amazing milk and cheeses organically. I'm sure that we could have amazing tasting milk but it would cost at $20/gallon, or the cheeses in the $20/pound range. I doubt there are ways to make those prices decrease enough for that type of quality to move to closer to a consumer friendly range.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:55 PM   #22
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swiss cheese is nasty! give them some funk and make jalapeno blue cheese!
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:31 PM   #23
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My understanding is (and I'm posting it here so you can correct me, lungs) that the big dairy operations use antibiotics on a proactive, prophylactic basis, basically medicating the cows all or a lot of the time in order to prevent any infections. This is the main thing I hear people complaining/worrying about. Is that accurate?

Monensin (product name of Rumensin) is one thing we do put in the feed that can be considered an antibiotic. In actuality, antibiotic is such a broad term meaning "against life". Monensin targets a parasite in the intestinal tract called Coccidia so anti-parasitic is maybe a term that would instill less fear even though the term antibiotic is still correct. In terms of antibiotic resistance, it would require a mutation that would hinder the ability of monensin to transport metal cations through cellular membranes. Even so, the strain of coccidia found in cattle (and what monensin targets) is not something that can be passed to humans. The FDA approved this practice for beef in 1977 and for dairy in 2004. As far as I can tell, the science is there to back it up.
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:38 PM   #24
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The moral I get from these posts is that you can't just stop at "organic" and "cage free" and call it good. If you're really interested in where your food is coming from, take the time to learn where your food is coming from beyond those labels. I'd eat vast quantities of cheese from lungs' farm, but I probably shouldn't rely as much as I do on just the word "organic" in other purchases. Those organic farms could have suffering, disease-ridden cows for all I know, running their operation like christian scientists who oppose medical treatment.

Last edited by molson : 04-25-2012 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:49 PM   #25
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I haven't drank a glass of milk in 35 years.
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:01 PM   #26
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It sucks that the economics simply aren't really there for a small farm to make amazing milk and cheeses organically. I'm sure that we could have amazing tasting milk but it would cost at $20/gallon, or the cheeses in the $20/pound range. I doubt there are ways to make those prices decrease enough for that type of quality to move to closer to a consumer friendly range.

There are opportunities, it just takes a lot of skills most farmers (myself included) don't have to make the jump from providing a raw product to a consumer-ready product. I've made a little mozzarella cheese, but a cheesemaker I am not. It's a tough market to break into. From getting shelf space at grocery stores to simple name recognition, it's plain tough. And getting into that would take me away from what I really enjoy about farming and that's the cows.

The best opportunity for somebody like myself is to create a raw product that is highly desirable to the companies that process it. The farmer-processor relationship can be antagonistic at times (processors want their raw product as cheap as possible) but they will pay a premium when it's of the highest quality.
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:02 PM   #27
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The moral I get from these posts is that you can't just stop at "organic" and "cage free" and call it good. If you're really interested in where your food is coming from, take the time to learn where your food is going from beyond those labels. I'd eat vast quantities of cheese from lungs' farm, but I probably shouldn't rely as much as I do on just the word "organic" in other purchases. Those organic farms could have suffering, disease-ridden cows for all I know, running their operation like christian scientists who oppose medical treatment.

Ahhh, cage free. All you have to do is open the door to the chicken coop and you can label your eggs cage free

But yeah, you pretty well hit the nail on the head.
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:33 PM   #28
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Ahhh, it's the whole milk. If you like whole milk, you'd like milk from my cows. It's got more fat in it than regular whole milk. Whole milk is 3.25 percent fat while whole milk from my farm would be 4 percent. I've got individual cows that will even pump out 6-7% fat content.

Yummy.

I'm a fan of Shatto here. Local farm north of the city. They have the best whole milk I've ever had. They bottle and distribute themselves so the freshness really comes through. They sell a number of flavor variations too:
Chocolate
Strawberry
Banana (supposedly good on Cheerios)
Orange
Root Beer
Coffee
and the latest I've seen: Cotton Candy flavored.

They sell Ice Cream as well, but I can't tell the difference in flavor there, so I haven't bought it again. Their butter though, that is out of this world.

Sorry to derail there, but I do love good milk. I imagine yours is delicious.
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:49 PM   #29
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I want to camp out in WI and drink milk from lungs' farm!!!
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Old 04-25-2012, 07:34 PM   #30
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Monensin (product name of Rumensin) is one thing we do put in the feed that can be considered an antibiotic. In actuality, antibiotic is such a broad term meaning "against life". Monensin targets a parasite in the intestinal tract called Coccidia so anti-parasitic is maybe a term that would instill less fear even though the term antibiotic is still correct. In terms of antibiotic resistance, it would require a mutation that would hinder the ability of monensin to transport metal cations through cellular membranes. Even so, the strain of coccidia found in cattle (and what monensin targets) is not something that can be passed to humans. The FDA approved this practice for beef in 1977 and for dairy in 2004. As far as I can tell, the science is there to back it up.

But do other operations use antibiotics more broadly than you do?
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Old 04-25-2012, 08:03 PM   #31
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But do other operations use antibiotics more broadly than you do?

No. It's unnecessary. Actually, in terms of how we operate, my farm with 500 cows would more closely resemble a farm with 5000 cows than it would a farm with 50 cows.
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Old 04-25-2012, 09:19 PM   #32
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Excellent thread as always, lungs

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Old 04-25-2012, 09:38 PM   #33
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Yes, excellent thread. I grew up in the Central NY dairy region and had relatives that were dairy farmers. But I imagine a lot has changed since the 1960s.
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:00 PM   #34
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Yes, excellent thread. I grew up in the Central NY dairy region and had relatives that were dairy farmers. But I imagine a lot has changed since the 1960s.

Well for one thing, the rise of the Wisconsin dairy industry was due to a lot of New Yorkers migrating here in the 1800s so NY and WI have very similar styles of dairying. A lot has changed since the 1960s but there are still plenty of operations that are still using facilities and such from that era and doing well.

We got our start during WW2. My great-grandfather served in the cavalry in WW1 and got his horse machine gunned from underneath him (cavalry wasn't fun when machine guns came along). The thought of my grandfather going through the same thing horrified him. So my grandfather married into a nice Swiss farming family here in southern Wisconsin and both sides helped him along with buying a farm and getting him going. So he was a draft dodger in a way, but he also was feeding the country too (my dad did the same thing during Vietnam or he would've ended up being over there during the Tet Offensive).

We've gone from 10 cows and a bunch of chickens and hogs to 20 cows to 40 cows to 80 cows to 150 cows to 300 cows to now 500 cows since we got our start in the 40s. My dad figured he'd never have to milk more than 150 cows but ended up at 500. I figure I'll never have to milk more than 1000 so that means I'll probably end up at 3-4000 if the industry doesn't swallow me whole
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:16 PM   #35
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Well for one thing, the rise of the Wisconsin dairy industry was due to a lot of New Yorkers migrating here in the 1800s so NY and WI have very similar styles of dairying. A lot has changed since the 1960s but there are still plenty of operations that are still using facilities and such from that era and doing well.

We got our start during WW2. My great-grandfather served in the cavalry in WW1 and got his horse machine gunned from underneath him (cavalry wasn't fun when machine guns came along). The thought of my grandfather going through the same thing horrified him. So my grandfather married into a nice Swiss farming family here in southern Wisconsin and both sides helped him along with buying a farm and getting him going. So he was a draft dodger in a way, but he also was feeding the country too (my dad did the same thing during Vietnam or he would've ended up being over there during the Tet Offensive).

We've gone from 10 cows and a bunch of chickens and hogs to 20 cows to 40 cows to 80 cows to 150 cows to 300 cows to now 500 cows since we got our start in the 40s. My dad figured he'd never have to milk more than 150 cows but ended up at 500. I figure I'll never have to milk more than 1000 so that means I'll probably end up at 3-4000 if the industry doesn't swallow me whole

Do you have the cool machines where the cows just walk up when they feel like getting milked and it drains them automagically? We have an 'Open Farm Day' here once a year and I took the kids to a dairy farm last year and saw one of those, it was awesome.
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:28 PM   #36
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Do you have the cool machines where the cows just walk up when they feel like getting milked and it drains them automagically? We have an 'Open Farm Day' here once a year and I took the kids to a dairy farm last year and saw one of those, it was awesome.

Nope.... Those things are pretty damn expensive. Close to $1 million per robot and each robot can handle like 60-70 cows so the investment on my part would be absolutely astronomical.

Those rich Canadian farmers have all the fanciest equipment. No joke either. The quota system makes life very comfortable for the Canadian farmer. It's hard for any young person to put together the capital required to buy any quota though.
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:50 PM   #37
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All I have of my great-grandfather's dairy from the early 1900s is a Brown Dairy milk bottle.
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:46 PM   #38
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Nope.... Those things are pretty damn expensive. Close to $1 million per robot and each robot can handle like 60-70 cows so the investment on my part would be absolutely astronomical.

Those rich Canadian farmers have all the fanciest equipment. No joke either. The quota system makes life very comfortable for the Canadian farmer. It's hard for any young person to put together the capital required to buy any quota though.

Wow, I had no idea about the quota system at all. I did a bit of reading and you're right, it sounds like it would be unbelievably expensive to just up and start a farm.

As your typical socialist Canadian I'm not immediately affronted by the concept of the system, although I think it clearly needs changes if indeed consolidation is progressing as I understand it to be, and if it is as cost-prohibitive as it seems it must be for someone to enter the market. I wonder if the government could somehow provide access to low-cost capital or other incentives to first-time farm buyers or some other definition of a 'startup' individual?

Anyways, interesting stuff, thanks for sharing all your knowledge. As a city-slicker I find it really fascinating to have these little insights into something that is amazingly foreign to me.
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:47 PM   #39
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Wow, I had no idea about the quota system at all. I did a bit of reading and you're right, it sounds like it would be unbelievably expensive to just up and start a farm.

As your typical socialist Canadian I'm not immediately affronted by the concept of the system, although I think it clearly needs changes if indeed consolidation is progressing as I understand it to be, and if it is as cost-prohibitive as it seems it must be for someone to enter the market. I wonder if the government could somehow provide access to low-cost capital or other incentives to first-time farm buyers or some other definition of a 'startup' individual?

Anyways, interesting stuff, thanks for sharing all your knowledge. As a city-slicker I find it really fascinating to have these little insights into something that is amazingly foreign to me.

From what I hear, there are rumblings about getting rid of the quota system in Canada. Europe is phasing theirs out too, I believe (I know the UK has phased there's out). On the other hand, here in the United States there are efforts to put a supply management mechanism into the next Farm Bill in Congress and there are some pretty heated regional/size differences for and against it. There was enough of a stink about it that the program was rewritten to be voluntary....

And you won't see me volunteering to be any part of that. First of all, I'm in the Midwest where there is not an oversupply of milk and I have plenty of competition for my milk. Second, I'm in the process of buying my father's share of the business out. Along with that investment, there are a number of big capital improvements I need to make in the not-so-distant future. That'll require me to produce more milk to pay for the improvements. With the current plan, I'd be punished severely price-wise for any added production over what I produce when the Farm Bill would be signed into law. Politically I tend to support such ideas, but my situation simply doesn't allow me to support that. It may be hypocritical, but I don't have any plans on being in politics so who cares?
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Old 01-18-2013, 10:38 AM   #40
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Location: Prairie du Sac, WI
Time to bump this, as I had another case of listeriosis afflict a cow this morning. Wanted to check this thread to see when the last case was.

Young cow, just had her first calf. Her immune system must've been compromised as we also diagnosed her with mastitis yesterday (udder infection). One of my employees informed me this morning that she didn't want to get up. I found her standing up but she didn't know her head from her ass at that point.

In the meantime, I had another cow trying to push an elephant sized calf out of her vagina. Not knowing how long she was trying to calve overnight, I grabbed the chains and helped get the calf out, and luckily it was alive.

That being done, I grabbed my strong, broad spectrum antibiotic and IV'd the sick cow. She was laying sprawled out and tangled up in our stall dividers when I IV'd her. She looked like hell. But within 30 minutes of giving her the IV, she was standing up and had her wits back. Prognosis for recovery is excellent. Of course I go and check on the new mother cow, and that damn elephant calf must've irritated a nerve on it's way out as she's got some paralysis in her leg. Got to give her an anti-inflammatory shot and hope that'll help.

All in a few hours work on the farm......
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