All About Teamwork: How Co-Ops, Farmers, Haulers, and Processing Plants Work Together To Keep Milk Flowing
Getting milk from farm to table involves tremendous teamwork. From the logistical work of Dairy Co-Ops and trucking dispatchers to farmers and haulers, everyone has a role to play in collecting, testing, and packaging milk safely and efficiently for sale.
Here’s how the process works, from the initial order to the processing plant:
Dairy co-ops arrange milk sales and coordinate milk pickups and deliveries. The co-ops send milk haulers a schedule of the farms from where milk needs to be collected based on what they’ve sold to processing plants. The hauler identifies how many loads will be required to transport the orders based on truck capacities, schedules, and route distances. The co-op then determines how many loads should be brought to each processing plant, and coordinates production.
Once it receives an order from a co-op, the hauling company organizes the logistics of farm collections, loads, and deliveries to processing plants. They coordinate with the plants to set processing appointment times. As with most other transport, hauling companies are paid based on how much milk they haul, and how far they haul it.
Haulers ensure that farmers get the best return possible by segregating conventional, BST-free and organic milk, and delivering it to the proper processing plant. Farmers earn a premium for the latter two types of milk (organic and BST-free), so haulers need to be careful not to mix these with conventional milk, and to deliver them to the right processing plant. To do so, drivers fill out a load sheet for each farm pickup they complete. They scan a barcode to identify the origin farm, and note the number of pounds collected. This helps drivers know how close their tank is to being full. Once the tank reaches its capacity, it’s time to head to the processing plant.
Farmers are paid based on the type (conventional or BST-free, organic, kosher, etc.), quality, and volume of milk they provide. This means the stakes are quite high for delivering healthy milk. In fact, if a truckload of milk is found to be contaminated, the whole batch is dumped, and the farm responsible for the issue may be required to pay for the milk lost by all other farms in that collection. For a 68,000-pound load of milk, that could mean big bucks! That being said, meticulous milk haulers are usually able to identify contaminated milk so that it does not get added to the truck.
Since milk is collected from farms several times each day, processing plants schedule appointments to coordinate the large number of deliveries they receive. As with anything else, delays and backups sometimes occur, which is why in some cases drivers may wait up to several hours to unload. More often than not, deliveries are processed quickly and efficiently (usually in one and a half or two hours), allowing drivers to continue their daily rounds.
Just as each agent has a unique role to play, each is compensated based on separate metrics. They nevertheless all share a commitment to bringing safe, fresh and healthy products from the farm to grocery store shelves as efficiently and reliably as possible.