The Use of Farmer Directed Teams to Improve Milk Quality on Family Dairy Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $98,052.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Pamela Ruegg
University of Wisconsin Madison


  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: extension
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development


    Milk Quality program materials (Milk Money) were developed and revised to allow farmers to form self-directed milk quality teams. Continuous support for the teams was provided through a toll-free number and a heavily accessed web site. Milk quality teams were formed by Wisconsin dairy farms self identified (n = 30) as using MIG. The enrolled group of grazers gained $232/month in increased milk production, added $0.12 per hundredweight to their milk price through increased quality incentives, and saved an additional $201/month by reducing cases of clinical mastitis. SCC levels were reduced 275,050 and SPC levels went down by 6,426 – both factors indicating a strong improvement in milk quality by participating in Milk Money.


    The production of high quality milk is one mechanism that farmers can employ to improve the milk price that they receive. Quality premiums paid by milk processors are based on bulk tank SCC (BTSCC) levels. Farm profitability is strengthened by attaining higher milk quality premiums and decreased financial losses associated with clinical and sub-clinical mastitis.

    Short-term and intermediate-term outcomes focus on learning and initial action related to team leadership, management skills, and milk quality practices essential for high quality milk production. Long-term outcomes include: 1) Key milk quality management practices adopted by participants; 2) Dairy farm profitability will increase through higher quality milk production; 3) MQT remain viable following program completion; 4) MQTs become “standard” for the dairy industry; 5) Educational institutions (universities, technical colleges, extension) and the dairy industry will include programs to address the production of high quality milk

    Upon enrollment in Milk Money, dairy producers form individual farm milk quality teams. Participation of the herd veterinarian and dairy plant field representative is recommended as core team members. Program material is adapted to fit the production cycle of MIG herds. Each individual milk quality team is supplied with program materials that form the basis of the monthly team meetings. Educational materials are based upon Hazard Analysis, Critical Control Point Program (HACCP) directed toward milk quality. The materials include information about effective meeting facilitation, team-building and relevant milk quality resources. The materials are structured to guide team members through milk quality situation analysis, identification of farm-specific critical control points for milk quality, goal setting, definition of action points, and assignation of responsibilities and determination of appropriate evaluation strategies.

    Each enrolled farm conducts four monthly team meetings. Monthly meetings provide the opportunity for dairy team members to address milk quality issues specific to the individual dairy operation. Dairy farms participating in the program receive one free bulk culture (including postage) to help identify mastitis pathogens prevalent on the farm, program training including one training manual with supplemental milk quality resources (CDROM and video), and a $50 voucher toward consultant fees from a milk quality specialist (i.e. the local veterinarian or a consultant).

    Project objectives:

    The objectives were to 1) enroll 150 grazing herds into a team-based milk quality program and form one farmer-directed team per enrolled team; 2) develop milk quality program materials; 3) revise milk quality program materials based on program evaluation; 4) provide continuous web based and phone support to program participants; 5) share program information.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.