Why Milk Haulers Are Key to the Farmer’s Success
There is more to milk hauling than just picking up a tank load of milk and driving it to the nearest plant. Our milk haulers have a huge responsibility to the farmer. They have a specialized and complex job, and the duties they perform add to the safety, and value, of the milk they are transporting.
Sampling Done Right
Our drivers all write a state test and acquire a Sampler’s License, which proves they’re qualified. It’s imperative that they are trained correctly, because the samples they take directly influence how much the farmers get paid.
Our drivers learn how to agitate the farm tank for the proper length of time, which can be from five to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the tank. This is important because the cream separates in raw milk, and the milk and cream must be combined in order to get a true sample.
Then there is the proper way to remove the milk using a sterile bottle with a cap on it. The bottle has to open correctly so no outside contamination gets in, and be filled to a certain level with milk. Enough of a gap must be left so the sample can be shaken at the lab in order to get the milk and cream to combine again.
Sample bottles are then identified with a sticker, on which the date is written, and properly stored it in a mixture of ice and water. It is important for the sample to rest on a rack directly in the cold water. If the cooler contains only ice the sample is at risk, since being left on top of a mound of ice could cool it to the wrong temperature.
The farmers depend on our drivers to carry out these tasks correctly and not make an error in the sample.
Significance of the Sample
The samples are important, since the farmers receive premiums based on the butterfat, the proteins and the quality of the milk. A low bacteria count means to a lot of money to the farmers. If there is a problem, the farmers’ first instinct is to point the finger at us and assume we didn’t take those samples correctly. Then they might check to see if, perhaps, the problem lies on their end.
The lab does have the ability to determine who is responsible. They can detect what kind of bacteria is in the sample and what caused it – whether it was slow cooling, dirty equipment or perhaps the milk was cold but got warm again.
Pay Base and Bonus for Quality
Farmers are paid based on the volume of the milk. Right now, the price the farmer gets is controlled federally and governed by what’s going on in the whole country in terms of supply and demand. Currently the price of milk is more than $20 per 100 pounds, which is a good price. Typically, when the price of milk goes up, prices for other supplies such as feed, corn and fertilizer also go up, but over the last few months the extras have remained stable – so the farmers are doing pretty well at the moment.
The co-op determines what the farmer is paid and they issue the checks. The co-op also pays us for hauling.
Our pay rates are determined in a number of different ways – per hundredweight as well as a certain amount for each stop. If we’re hauling organic milk, the system is different. They pay so much per mile and a stop, rather than by the hundredweight.