Intro: How Milk Gets From the Cow to the Consumer?
Milk getting from the cow to the consumer includes the following steps: Step 1 : Cows Grazing, Step 2 : Harvesting Milk, Step 3 : Storing Milk, Step 4 : Transporting Milk, Step 5 : Lab Testing, Step 6 : Packaging and Step 7 : Distributing and Selling Milk
Step 1: Step 1 : Cow Grazing
Dairy cows typically spend their days eating, sleeping, and ruminating or chewing their cud. Typically cows spend about 8 hours eating, 8 hours sleeping and 8 hours ruminating or chewing their cud. Cows are usually provided with a fresh paddock of grass in the morning after milking and another fresh paddock of grass in the evening after milking. They may also be fed some grain in the dairy while being milked and Hay or Silage (conserved forage) if there is not enough grass available. Many large dairy farms utilize growth hormones and antibiotics during the rearing process to artificially increase a cow's milk production and to decrease the spread of infectious diseases among their cows.
Step 2: Step 2: Harvesting Milk
In the Past:
A cow is ready to be milked when her udder is full. The farmer has some flexibility when making a schedule of cow milking times. Usually, cows are milked in the early morning and again in the late afternoon. It is possible to milk a cow by hand. However, milking a whole herd of cows twice a day in this manner would take a great deal of time and energy. Before the invention of milking machines, people milked their dairy cows by hand by squeezing gently on the cow's teats using the thumb and forefinger. Some people continue to milk a little by hand today.
Cows are normally milked at least twice a day. Milking time takes about five minutes per cow depending on the type of machine and the amount of milk the cow is producing. Most dairies have enough machines to milk more than 20 cows at one time. Milking machines mimic the action of a young calf by creating a pulsating vacuum around the teat, which causes the milk to be released from the udder.
Step 3: Step 3: Storing Milk
Milk storage vats or silos are refrigerated and come in various shapes and sizes. Milk is usually stored on the farm at 39 degrees Fahrenheit or colder for no more than 48 hours. Vats and silos are agitated to make sure that the entire volume remains cold and milkfat does not separate from the milk. After milk has been collected, storage vats and stainless steel pipes are thoroughly cleaned before the farmer milks again.
Step 4: Step 4: Transporting Milk
Milk is collected from the farm every 24 or 48 hours. The tankers that are used have a special stainless steel body which is heavily insulated to keep the milk cold during transportation to the milk processing factory. Milk tanker drivers are accredited milk graders, which allow them to evaluate the milk prior to collection. Tanker drivers grade and if necessary reject milk based on temperature, sight and smell. A representative sample is collected from each farm pickup prior to being pumped onto the tanker. After collection, milk is transported to factory sites and stored in refrigerated silos before being processing.
Step 5: Step 5: Lab Testing
Samples of milk are taken from farm vats prior to collection and from the bulk milk tanker on arrival at the factory. Samples from the bulk milk tanker are tested for antibiotic and temperature before the milk enters the factory processing area. Farm milk samples are tested for milkfat/protein/bulk milk cell count and bacteria count. If milk is unsuitable for our quality products the milk will be rejected. Most farmers are paid on quality and composition of their milk and it is extremely important that these samples are collected and stored correctly.
Step 6: Step 6: Packaging
Now the milk is ready to be packaged for delivery to the stores. The milk travels through pipes to the automatic packaging machines that fills and seals the milk into paper cartons or plastic jugs. As the containers move through the assembly line, a date is printed on each of them to show how long the milk will stay fresh.
Step 7: Step 7: Distributing and Selling Milk
After packaging, the milk is finally ready for the customers, and it is stored in a big, refrigerated room until it is delivered to stores to be sold.