Dairy producers are constantly striving to improve the quality of milk they produce. Higher quality milk can mean a price premium and longer shelf life for dairy products. Milk quality continues to improve because of advances in equipment, animal care, genetics, and nutrition.
This week, Okeechobee dairy producers and veterinarians attended an educational meeting about Milk Quality and Udder Health. Roger Thomson, DVM, a milk quality and udder health specialist, presented current information on udder care and milking systems. He travels around the world to consult with producers on ways to improve milk quality and udder health. He presented new products, technology, and equipment that are becoming available to help dairy producers continue to improve milk quality. Quality milk comes from healthy cows who are comfortable, fed correctly, and milked in a well maintained facility. Following the meeting, Dr. Thomson traveled to local dairies to help evaluate their operations.
Research by universities and the industry continues to provide farmers more information about ways to improve milk quality. This is accomplished in several ways. First cows must be kept healthy. Cows fed an appropriate diet of balanced nutrients have a well functioning immune system that is able to fight off disease. Cows also receive required vaccinations, approved by veterinarians, to maintain herd health and prevent outbreaks of contagious diseases. Researchers continue to study the genetic make-up of cows to identify traits that make them healthier throughout their entire life. Producers are now able to select animals that will provide higher quality milk, because they are genetically healthier cows. Advances in equipment and housing also lead to healthier cows because they are more comfortable.
Okeechobee is the top dairy county in Florida, with about 20 dairies and 25,000 cows. Dairy producers and their employees work everyday to provide nutritious dairy products to our community and the surrounding area. Milk from Okeechobee and the surrounding counties (Highlands, Hardee, DeSoto, Glades, and St. Lucie) supply dairy products to Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Naples, and other south Florida cities.