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If I only knew then what I know now

Members share their thoughts on 50 years of milk quality

Contributed by Dairy Herd Management


indsight is 20-20, a phrase often used to describe the fact that it is easy for one to be knowledgeable about an event after it has happened, can be readily applied to almost anything or any situation. Most people, if given a chance, would probably like to go back in history and change a few things. But, what about mastitis and milk quality? Looking at what we know today, would we go back and change anything if we could?

fighting to lower somatic cell counts for years. The science was there years ago, and the industry has just decided to see the light. “Similarly, the whole issue with the use of rBST, there is a great deal of science behind it, it doesn’t hurt milk or humans and the industry decided to discard the science.

In the spirit of the recent 50th anniversary of the National Mastitis Council, five milk quality experts look back at mastitis and milk quality.

“Just because we come up with good science that might revolutionize the world, it doesn’t mean that people are going to roll over and buy it. I’ve learned that we have to handle politics right along with science.”

Keith Sterner

Eric Hillerton

“When I first started in this business I don’t think I fully appreciated information from the pioneers of mastitis,” says Keith Sterner, veterinarian with Sterner Veterinary Clinic. “There is no way to treat your way out of a mastitis situation. Intrinsically I knew this, and was taught this in veterinary school, but I didn’t fully appreciate it and would have spent more time on it then. The antimicrobial approach to mastitis control is limited at best and not the future of controlling mastitis.

“There are many more hidden dangers in raw foods than we’ve ever appreciated, not just raw milk,” says Eric Hillerton, chief scientist at DairyNZ. “Milk is safe when pasteurized, but people want to go backwards and forget the challenges we’ve overcome with human health.

Keith Sterner

“Historically, as an industry we have been focused on equipment and maintenance, blaming poor quality equipment for some of our mastitis problems. But even then, we recognized some people could produce quality milk with poor equipment because they focused on the concept of keeping cows clean, dry and comfortable. We now have some of the highest-quality equipment in history to milk cows and we still have mastitis problems.”

Larry Smith “The real lesson has been the interaction between science and politics,” says Larry Smith, professor emeritus at Ohio State University. “We’ve approached all issues based on science. But when science and politics collide, generally politics win. “For example, the industry has been


Larry Smith

“People forget that milk used to have a shelf life of only a few hours; fresh milk would be purchased for each meal.

Eric Hillerton

“Redoing this kind of scientific research could become a problem in the future. We should have done a better job of creating successors in research. We’re in danger of losing an entire generation of researchers. People are retiring and their successors or not being hired — it’s an international problem. The industry is going to have to redo work we’ve already done.”

Bucky Jones “Things have changed, but the basics are still the same — keep cows clean and comfortable,” says Bucky Jones, dairy farmer and BouMatic dealer. “We’ve learned that little details make a big difference. Back then, we thought we were doing things right. Fresh cow pens were cleaned out every two or three weeks; today they are cleaned every day.

Bucky Jones National Mastitis Council

NMC Commemorative Booklet  
NMC Commemorative Booklet  

This book is a collection of the past 50 years of mastitis control, milk quality, the history of the National Mastitis Council, personal rec...