Veterinarians, Farmers Share Goal of Safe Milk

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  • 2 min read April 14, 2014

I am part of a veterinary group that oversees the care of dairy cows in New York. Being a veterinarian and working with dairy farmers is the type of career that I always wanted to have.

I enjoy every day that I am on a farm, and I feel very fortunate to work with so many great dairy farm families. 

In my role, I guess you could say the farmers consider me to be a “co-manager” of their herds. We have a shared goal of determining the cows’ needs and making sure they are met on a daily basis. We think about the cow’s well-being during every step she takes throughout the day.

Most of our work is of a preventative nature through regular visits to the farm. We make sure cows have a well-balanced diet, all-day access to fresh water, and a clean and comfortable environment where they can rest. These measures help assure good health. This preventative focus is a shift from how veterinarians worked with farmers many years ago when they mostly visited farms to only treat sick animals.

But, no matter how much preventative work we do, it’s a reality that cows still can become ill. When this occurs, we treat them with antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline that are familiar to humans. Every medicine we use on the farm is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. We follow a strict protocol to assure the cows receive the proper medicine and dosage to treat the illness.

During this time, cows must still be milked. The farmers have a system of checks and balances in place to assure these cows are separated from the healthy herd. Milk from these cows is diverted and is not used for human consumption.

These cows only return to their herd when we determine they are healthy and the medicine has cleared their system. Consumers can be assured that our country’s milk supply is safe, as it is highly regulated, both at the farm and at the processing plant, where it is tested.

You can feel confident that we have the safest milk supply possible – farmers and veterinarians are committed each day to make this happen.

From coast to coast, dairy veterinarians around the nation feel similarly about using antibiotics responsibly. For example, in the video, you can see how another veterinarian, Dr. Richard Veeman, cares for cows in Oregon.