Inspectors guarantee top quality

John Rice starts his day long before he leaves his house. It’s about coordinating when inspections are due, making best use of his time and mapping out the day.

Rice is a Michigan Department of Agriculture dairy inspector, who services seven counties in eastern Lower Michigan. There are 16 dairy inspectors in the state.

Each dairy farm must be inspected at least every six months, milk haulers and samplers every two years, and processing plants each quarter to be in compliance with the sanitation requirements of the Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, or PMO, and the Michigan Manufacturing Milk dairy law, which covers non-Grade A products, such as frozen desserts (ice cream) and butter.

Key Points

• MDA inspects dairy farms every six months and processors quarterly.

• Milk haulers and samplers take samples from each bulk tank for processors to test.

• Certain farm violations can trigger re-checks, fines and dumping of milk.

On a Tuesday morning in late May, Rice visited Schlusler Farms in Shiawasee County’s Bancroft.

Not only will the farm be inspected, but its hauler, Randy George, is also due for a spot-check. “It’s two-for-one today,” says Rice, who averages about five dairy farm inspections a day. He’s been on the job for more than two years, and to get the work done he’s on a 10-hour-a-day, four-day-a-week schedule.

Rice notifies the farm owner that he’s there for an inspection and then plops down a rubber tub, fills it with sanitizer and gives his boots a good scrubbing. He pulls out a card that shows the history of the farm, including any violations.

About then, George pulls up with the tanker. A 26-year veteran on the job, he welcomes the inspection. He sanitizes a calibrated stick, and Rice uses a test strip on the sanitizer. “Not enough and too much are not good,” he says.

George dips the stick into the tank and reads a chart to determine pounds of milk. Once the 4,000-gallon stainless-steel tank is fully agitated, he fills a dipper and returns the milk twice before extracting a sample for the processing plant, which will test for antibiotics and other milk components.

The sample is labeled with a bar code for the farm, as well as the date, time and temperature. Inside a hand-held cooler where George stores the samples, Rice checks to make sure the temperature control sample taken at George’s first stop of the day is below 45 degrees.

Both hose ends are required to be sanitized before being connected, and the milk is drawn from the holding tank to the tanker.

Rice starts the farm inspection with general observations, looking at cleanliness of floors and ceilings, adequacy of lighting and ventilation, and currency of the temperature recording chart. He also looks to see if doors are closed when milking, if the holding area is free of pooled water and manure, and if there is a reasonable amount of fly control.

Thorough inspection

For a closer look, he pulls out a flashlight to look inside the milking claw and inflation (teat cup). “You don’t want to see any cracks or residue,” Rice says. “If there’s some dullness on the equipment, that shows some wear and the greater potential for residue.” He also inspects the milk receiver unit.

Cleaning supplies and drugs must be clearly labeled. Restrooms are checked for hot water, supplies and cleanliness. The water system is carefully scrutinized. “You must prevent negative pressure on the system,” Rice says. “The water lines cannot allow cross contamination with potable water or the milking system.”

He examines the well cap to make sure it’s covered, as well as cow waterers for proper functioning. Rice continues down the checklist, which is burned into his memory. In all, it takes about an hour and half. The inspection concludes with a conference with the farmer. Minor violations are pointed out, along with ways to correct the problem.

Violations with water contamination, sanitation of equipment, cooling, and drug and chemical control trigger an automatic re-check. If the problem is not corrected, the farm can be found in noncompliance, the permit suspended and fines given of up to $1,000 for each item. If drug residues are found, a farm can be forced to dump milk for up to 10 days.

Last year MDA suspended 114 permits. “We’re not here to be the bad guy,” Rice says. “In fact, most farmers welcome suggestions on how they can do things better.”

2009 inspections

MDA made the following inspections for 2009:
• 5,680 farm inspections
• 288 milk processing plant
• 836 hauler/sampler/tanker
• 444 pasteurization systems
• 20 USDA surveys
Total: 7,268 inspections

Under inspection

The MDA dairy section licenses and inspects:

• 2,299 dairy farms

• 75 milk processing plants

• 650 milk tank trucks

• 129 milk transportation companies

• 837 milk haulers and samplers

• 37 dairy facilities

• 27 certified industry farm inspectors

CLOSED COVER: Dairy inspector John Rice makes sure the well head is covered and s ecured from contaminates.


DRUG ID: The Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance requires drugs be labeled and separated for lactating and nonlactating cows.


INSPECTION REPORT: Dairy inspector John Rice (left) goes over his report with one of the farm owners, Carl Schlusler.


A LITTLE FOR LATER: Milk hauler and sampler Randy George takes a milk sample for the processing plant.

This article published in the July, 2010 edition of MICHIGAN FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.