Document Type

Dairy Cattle - Tennessee Quality Milk Initiative


According to records, in 1995, there were more than 1300 dairy farms in Tennessee. In 2007, the number declined to fewer than 600 dairies (9). There are several reasons for this mass exodus from the dairy industry in Tennessee: low milk prices, shortages of qualified labor, high feed costs, high fertilizer costs, high fuel costs, etc. In addition, many dairy producers in Tennessee and in the Southern Region are at risk of losing their milk market due to below average milk quality. Milk quality continues to be a topic of intense debate in the dairy industry. Dairy producers in the United States are not competitive in the global marketplace because regulatory standards in the U.S. are not as stringent as other developed countries. Until U.S. regulatory standards are tightened, export markets will remain closed to U.S. dairy producers. Additionally, the scientific literature shows very clearly that a high milk somatic cell count (SCC) is associated with a higher incidence of antibiotic residues and the presence of pathogenic organisms and toxins in milk (1,2,4,6,8). Although pathogenic organisms do not survive proper pasteurization, breakdowns in the process occasionally occur, resulting in contamination of the retail product. Consequently, consumers and processors are demanding a safe and high-quality product. Therefore, processing plants have adopted more stringent standards for raw milk.

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