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1007 PD: Managing milk quality is managing people

Published on 27 September 2007

Improving milk quality often consists of managing a complex system that includes people, cows, machines and the environment. Surveys of veterinarians and other professionals working with dairy producers indicate that barriers to improvement of milk quality are primarily related to motivation and implementation rather than lack of technical knowledge or skills.

In a survey of 165 Wisconsin dairy professionals, the existence of too many other problems (55 percent) and few incentives for production of high-quality milk (48 percent) were the predominant reasons cited for failure of farms to improve milk quality. Only a few responders indicated they felt the need for additional on-farm training programs (24 percent).

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During the summer of 2006, farmers that had completed the Milk Money program were asked an open-ended question that stated, “What is your greatest challenge in maintaining production of high-quality milk?” The most common responses were related to employee management (mentioned by 26 percent of responders), followed by management of the environment of the cow (mentioned by 14 percent of responders) and maintaining consistency in the milking process (mentioned by 11 percent of responders).

It is no mystery why employee management is mentioned so often, because 51 percent of farms responding to a post-Milk Money survey indicated that they employed Spanish-speaking employees, yet only 15 percent indicated they had any ability to speak or understand Spanish and 40 percent had never employed an interpreter.

These communication challenges are a fundamental reason why producing high-quality milk continues to be a challenge for many farmers. The ability to implement recommended management practices is an essential aspect of quality milk production. Implementation is dependent on the ability to clearly communicate the value of these practices and to motivate farm personnel to consistently apply them. PD

References omitted but are available upon request at

—From University of Wisconsin Milk Quality Resource website

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