Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring 2016 Contest

It's that time of the year. Spring Contest time! We're proud to announce that this year's spring contest theme is Hack Your Homestead!


Original photo by pixabay


Have you ever visited LifeHack.org, or watched TruTV's Hack My Life? You've probably seen some awesome money, time, and effort saving shortcuts from there, and maybe even tried them yourself! Homesteaders and hobby farmers are often extremely ingenuitive, because you have to be when you're raising livestock and growing plants! We find creative ways to make jobs easier and fix broken things cheaply all the time! Do you have a hack for chickens, gardening, or anything farm-y? Snap a picture, and enter our contest!

Rules/Guidelines

Your entry must include:
  • at least one picture of your hack, completed. The picture does not have to be professional, but it does have to be clear enough to see what is going on.
  • directions on how your hack is done
  • your email address at which you would prefer to be contacted, if different from the one you're sending from
  • your entry should be sent by email to thebackyardbarnyard@mail.com 
  • your entry must be submitted between the dates of April 20, 2016 and May 21, 2016.
Rules:
  • Contest is open to only the United States (sorry!)
  • It is preferable that your hack is completely your own - something you thought of yourself. If you learned it from someone else, please state where.
  • It MUST be something that you did yourself. Do not submit someone else's work or picture!
  • One entry per person. Submit your most useful and unique hack!
  • Must be willing to provide an email address and mailing address upon winning.
  • Be safe.
  • Must be 18 or older to enter 
We will choose the most unique and useful hacks to be tested to the best of our ability. We will choose the winner based on how well the hack worked and how much time, money, and/or effort it saves. The contest ends on May 15th, 2016, however judging could take a few weeks afterward given we have to test unique hacks. Winners will be announced on our blog as well as on our Facebook page. 

Prizes

The prizes we are offering this year include a $25 Tractor Supply Co. gift card and another prize that will be announced at a later date! There will be two runner-up prizes of $10 Tractor Supply Co. gift cards as well! If a winner or runner up refuses to disclose their mailing address, another winner will be chosen. We would also like to feature the winner and their homestead, with a brief email interview! The winner may opt out of the interview if they wish, however.

So enter now!




Saturday, April 16, 2016

Poultry Illness - Chronic Respiratory Disease


There are many potential diseases that effect poultry. Chicken keepers must always be aware of symptoms their chickens may be showing so they can determine what is wrong and find a solution quickly. Some illnesses can be spread between domestic poultry and wild bird populations. Today, we discuss the highly feared Chronic Respiratory Disease.

At a Glance

Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD), caused by the bacteria Mycoplasma Gallistepticum (often abbreviated MG), affects the respiratory system of birds and is highly contagious. To make matters worse, there is no cure for this condition, although there are treatments to control symptoms. It is often brought into a flock by bringing in a new bird and not following proper quarantine procedures. M. Gallistepticum can be transmitted to some wild birds, making it a potential risk to wild populations. Once infected, a bird will continue to carry the bacteria for the rest of it's life, spreading it to any other bird it is in contact with.

Transmission

Turkeys are susceptible to MG, making it a big problem for commercial turkey farms
M. gallisepticum is highly transmittable. It only takes coming into contact with someone who has come into contact with an infected bird, or bird's feces. The disease affects many captive species, including chickens, ducks, geese, pheasant, pigeons, and quail. Turkeys are especially susceptible to the bacteria, and infections are often more severe to them. When a bird shares a feeder or pecks the ground where someone's contaminated shoe was, it contracts the bacteria. Once that bird is infected, it spreads it to all of its flockmates, making the whole flock a carrier. CRD is transmittable through the egg, so offspring hatched from those eggs may have the illness. Chicks with CRD often die early on. Adults will likely not even show symptoms unless they are stressed, although there will likely be low hatch rate from their eggs and, as previously stated, their chicks may die quickly after hatching. All infected birds are carriers for life, and will transmit the bacteria to any bird they are in contact with. Humans are not infected with M. gallisepticum. 


Symptoms and diagnoses 

The most common symptoms of CRD include wheezing, sneezing, coughing, decrease in egg laying, nasal discharge, and sometimes swelling of the face. There are many other diseases that cause these symptoms, so it is advisable to have your flock tested for M. gallistepticum before you make any decisions. If a bird dies, save it in the refrigerator and contact your local Department of Agriculture to see if they offer testing for common diseases. If they do not, call your nearest avian veterinarian and see if they can test the bird. A test must take place to identify MG specifically, as many other respiratory diseases follow the same symptoms. If it is positive, then you will have some tough decisions to make. 

Treatment and Options

The M. gallistepticum bacteria is resistant to penicillins, which affect the cell wall of the bacteria. They are susceptible to some broad-spectrum antibiotics, such as tetracyclines and tylosin. Treatment with antibiotics, given when there is a flair, will control the symptoms, but is not a cure for CRD. This can become costly over time. Do not sell or give away any eggs during the withdrawal period of antibiotics. Some people are allergic to certain antibiotics, and residues are left in the eggs while and after the birds are being treated. It can vary from seven to twenty-one days, and they package of your antibiotics should have it in the instructions.
Because infected bird will be a carrier for the rest of their lives, regardless of treatment, it is a wise decision to cull an entire infected flock and start over with new birds. While this sounds harsh, it is a reality. Your flock, as much as you love them, could pose a risk to native wildlife simply by being there. Not only that, but you can never sell a bird or hatching eggs, and any bird you add will also be infected with the bacteria. If your chickens are also you business, it will not be able to operate effectively when infected with this disease.

Most songbirds are resistant to MG, but it can be a big problem for Finches and other birds!
 If you choose to keep an MG positive flock and do periodic treatment, it is imperative that you have strict safety precautions, making sure that absolutely no wild birds can come in contact with your flock or their bodily fluids. If that means double-fencing or keeping your coop surrounded by a huge screen, so be it. If you go to friends house or to a feed store, make sure you're wearing shoes and clothes that have not come into contact with your chickens, and shower before going. Do not allow an MG positive flock to free range! It is your responsibility to make sure the illness doesn't leave your flock. 

Prevention

CRD is prevented by basic biosecurity measures. If you visit another farm, you should shower and change your clothes and shoes before coming into contact with your flock. Any new birds should be quarantined for at least two weeks, preferably four, to see if the stress of moving brings out symptoms. Quarantined birds should be totally away from the flock, and you should change your shoes (or wear show covers) and clothes after you come into contact with the new bird, before caring for your healthy flock. If you take a bird to a show, also quarantine them before adding them back to the flock. They may have come into contact with the bacteria from other birds at the show. Obtaining chicks and chickens from NPIP certified breeders and hatcheries is also a good way to prevent your flock from becoming infected, as NPIP tests regularly for disease. 

Quick Recap

Chronic Respiratory Disease/ Mycoplasma Gallisepticum:
  • is extremely contagious.
  • is a permanent condition; all infected birds are carriers for life.
  • can be a threat to native avian populations.
  • is NOT transmittable to humans.
  • has symptoms treatable with certain antibiotics.
  • is a particularly menacing threat to turkeys and finches.
  • needs a test to confirm diagnoses.
  • is preventable through basic bio-security procedures.
  • is tested for in NPIP certified flocks.

Have you ever dealt with CRD? Do you think your flock may be infected? Leave a comment, ask a question! Remember to check out or Facebook page and our Instagram for regular updates!

Sources:

Ley, David H., DVM, PhD. "Mycoplasma Gallisepticum Infection in Poultry."Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. <http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/poultry/mycoplasmosis/mycoplasma_gallisepticum_infection_in_poultry.html>.

"Mycoplasma Gallisepticum Infection, M.g., Chronic Respiratory Disease - Chickens." The Poultry Site. The PoultrySite, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. <http://www.thepoultrysite.com/diseaseinfo/94/mycoplasma-gallisepticum-infection-mg-chronic-respiratory-disease-chickens/>.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Roosters, Oh, Roosters


Roosters can be a wonderful addition to the flock! They come with their own set of pros and cons - and you must have at least one if you wish to hatch your own eggs. Sometimes they are intentionally sought out, but many of us get roosters on accident from the "pullet" bins at feed stores. So are you looking to add a rooster to your flock? Or are you starting to notice red combs and wattles on some of your Easter chicks? Either way, read on!



*Some words used in this article may have unclear meanings. To begin with, let's clear them up.

Definitions:
Rooster - a colloquial word meaning any male chicken, commonly used in the US.
Cock - a male chicken over the age of one year; a breeding-age male chicken.
Cockerel - a male chicken under the age of one year
Pullet - a female chicken under the age of one year
Hen - a female chicken over the age of one year; a breeding-age female chicken
Spurs - sharp, pointed spine on a rooster's leg
Cull - to remove from the flock, usually by killing but not always
Butcher - to kill for the purpose of eating


What you need to know before keeping a rooster

 Roosters are beautiful, but there are a lot of problems associated with them. Whereas hens are fairly easy to care for, roosters can complicate things pretty quickly.

The main problems chicken owners run into with roosters are temperament issues; roosters can be mean! There are reasons for this, the main reason being testosterone. The male hormone is known to cause aggression in virtually every male animal, birds included. The reason he is so aggressive it due to his drive to reproduce, caused by testosterone. Basically, he wants your backyard filled with his offspring, and he has to keep his hens alive and mated by himself in order for that to happen. He sees basically everything as a threat to his hens, an obstacle on the way to his goal of filling your backyard with his offspring. So he grows fiercely protective. Sometimes this is a good thing, as a rooster will deter small predators, such as stray cats, and even sacrifice himself to let the hens escape a larger predator. Depending on the rooster, this aggressive instinct can be completely nonexistent to so bad that you can't even step in the coop without getting spurred. If it's the latter, he's probably gotta go! Personally, I'm willing to deal with a certain amount of aggression if the rooster does his job well. If he keeps my eggs fertile and keeps his girls safe, I can handle occasional aggression as long as he is not too territorial. When people visit, I tell them not to try and pick up the hens lest they be spurred by our Fonzie.


Ruby has to wear a caped "saddle" to protect her from the roosters' spurs
 Another commonly encountered problem with raising roosters is aggressive mating and over-mating. Young cockerels, flooded with more hormones than their bodies can handle, will often chase and grab younger pullets or even hens and try to mate them. Pullets are not yet mature enough to understand what's going on and get scared, and hens generally won't respect a young cockerel trying to mate them, so the youngster can get quite forceful and aggressive. An older rooster generally will not allow this behavior and will knock off young boys who try to mate his hens. If the behavior persists, however, the young rooster will likely have to spend some time in solitary confinement until he matures a little bit or the pullets catch up and begin squatting. A rooster who continues aggressively mating into adulthood can be a big problem. Over-mating occurs when there are too many roosters for a given number of hens, or he favors a specific hen and mates her too often. An over mated hen will often have a bare back and may have lacerations caused by the males' spurs. This can be solved by reducing your number of roosters, or putting "saddles" on your hens to protect their backs and wings. 

Roosters often crow 'round the clock
 Also keep in mind that roosters crow, a lot. They don't just crow in the morning; they crow in the morning, noontime, afternoon, evening, and yes, sometimes they crow at night if something wakes them up. The crowing itself measures in at roughly the same volume as a dog's bark, but is harder for many people to tune out. If your city or HOA doesn't allow roosters due to crowing, you may be able to get around it using a no-crow collar, but it doesn't work with all roosters and care must be taken that they are used correctly. Even if you don't mind the lovely songs (which I don't - I have four crowing boys right now and I love it!), do take my advise and don't put the coop right next to anyone's bedroom window. If you do, you will regret it!

 Even if you have a rooster, you can eat the eggs! Fertile eggs are no different from infertile eggs nutritionally. The embryo will not begin to develop unless it is kept at incubating temperatures. They will not develop in your fridge. Some people have said that fertile eggs will not keep as long, but I have not had this problem. I experimented with some eggs by putting them in a carton in my fridge labeled "aged eggs" and checked them 4 months later. Still good! These were unwashed, keep in mind. Please don't sell anyone 4 month old eggs. 

Multiple roosters will fight occasionally, but it shouldn't be a bloodbath. Game-based breeds need males to be kept separately because they will literally fight to the death - it's what they were bred for! Most common breeds will have an occasional scuffle with a few drops of blood, ending with the more dominant rooster chasing the other off. This is usually over mating rights, as the lead roo, (cock of the walk, if you will) rarely allows the boys below him to mate. This is acceptable behavior, so don't try to intervene unless they are seriously injuring each other. You could end up at the end of their spurs! If you do have to stop them, use a broom rather than your hands!

Although roosters fight on occasion, excessive fighting is problematic

You want a rooster, but what breed?

Some breeds are more docile than others, and roosters of these breeds generally follow those traits. It is often debated whether a rooster's personality is due more to nature or nurture. Given the chicken's primitive and instinctual mindset, and my personal experience, I lean on the side of "nature" being the main determining factor of a rooster's temerament, with nurture being a factor. Keep in mind, these are generalizations and may not be true for each individual bird. 

Marquis, keeping the bantams warm because he was too docile for the big hens at the time
Docile breeds, like Orpingtons, Cocins, and Faverolles generally produce docile roosters. These roos tend to be low on the totem pole with other males and are the least likely to show human aggression. My Salmon Faverolles cockerel is so far the sweetest of all my boys, lets me pick him up and rarely fights. These breeds are good options for people with children.



Protective breeds may show mild aggression, but are very good at protecting the flock. Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Easter Egger roosters may serve this purpose well. Use caution if you have young children, make sure they know not to chase or grab the hens, and don't let them go out with the chickens alone. Multiple roosters may fight but do not normally cause any serious injuries to the other. 
Although Fonzie, a Rhode Island Red, is blind in one eye, he is fiercely protective of his flock and has survived several attacks.


Aggressive and fighting breeds are not recommended if you have young children or multiple roosters in the same flock. Any gamefowl, and some ornamental game-based breeds like the Sumatra or Pheonix are part of this group. If you will only have one rooster, or a way to separate all of the males, these breeds will likely be very protective. Males are likely to fight until one bird is dead, as that is what they are bred for. 

If your getting your bird as a chick, you can help prevent human aggression by handling him regularly to get him use to you. This may keep him from seeing you as a threat, however it may not prevent him from fighting other males or ferociously attacking the FedEx guy. This is why it is important to choose a more docile breed as well if you want a docile rooster. Some people say that heritage-bred chickens of the same breed are gentler than than their hatchery-bred cousins, but this is not always the case, as it is up to the individual breeder to only select friendly breeding stock.
 The temperament of a rooster can change a lot as he ages. A kind cockerel can turn very aggressive as he approaches his second year, and an aggressive youngster into a gentleman. For your first roo, it may be a good idea to skip the uncertain teenage years and get an adult whose personality is already revealed. Some 


Options when you have an accidental rooster

As the weeks following Easter pass by, many people are finding their little fuzzballs to have big red combs and wattles. Uh oh, didn't think about that, huh? Don't fret, there are options!

Keeping the rooster is the first choice. Roosters can be a joy to have around, and having one lessens your dependence on hatcheries to replenish your stock! If a dog kills 5 of my hens, all I have to do is grab some eggs and put them in the incubator, because my roosters provide me with the means to do so. I don't have to wait until feed store chick days or buy 15 chicks from a hatchery, hoping they'll make it okay in the dead of winter. They never leave my little farm - accustomed to me the whole time! However, as I stated previously, roosters can come with a whole slew of their own problems, and beginner chicken keepers may not what to deal with that. Also, many cities don't allow roosters due to noise. This may be remedied by using a no-crow collar, a device that slightly restricts airflow through the chicken's vocal cords. When used correctly, it does not hurt them at all, and they can make all sounds except the crow. For comparison, take two fingers and put pressure on your larynx - the bump in your throat. You can talk and breath fine, right? Now try to sing loudly. That's sort of how the no-crow collar works. It doesn't work with all roosters and may need some adjusting to get right. 

You may try and rehome the rooster to a pet family. Depending on your rooster's breed, this is a possibility! Fonzie is a Rhode Island Red, a favorite breed in my area, that I got from a friend who doesn't like to butcher unless it's necessary. If you have a more rare breed, some people will jump at the chanced to have one at low cost or for free! Facebook groups and online classifieds are great places to list your boys. However, after the rooster is no longer in your hands, you have no control over what happens. If he develops aggression, the new owner may kill him. They may kill him just because they found another rooster that they like better. Many people run their farms like that, and if you absolutely can't handle that, you should probably find a way to keep him. 

Many of us butcher roosters that we can't keep. Most farmers simply don't want more than one rooster for every five or more girls, so finding "pet homes" for all of these males is often unrealistic. Think about it, why don't you want to keep him? Why would anyone else be able to? This is an unpleasant reality that chicken owners must face, unless they are willing to keep equal males and females. Butchering assures that the animal gets a death that is up to your standards of painlessness, whereas a stranger may use more painful methods. It also provides you with healthier food that was humanely raised, not raised in a filthy barn packed with thousands of barely-alive meat birds. I'm not going to lie, this is hard to do, especially your first couple of times. There are two common methods of killing chickens - decapitation and bleeding out. My dad prefers the former, the old way, while I prefer the latter because there is less twitching and flapping afterwards. Both are very quick and humane ways of killing the rooster. If your blade is sharp, he will be gone before he even realizes what's going on. 

Feeding and housing roosters

A rooster will excitedly alert his hens when he finds food
Some people keep all of their males totally separate from their hens when it is not breeding season. I do not find this separation necessary unless the rooster or roosters are being aggressive or over mating the hens. The reason some people do this is because they don't want their males eating layer feed due to the extra calcium. Some suggest that the calcium can lead to kidney problems because they males do not need it for eggs. Others respond that this is purely speculation, and that layer feed does not hurt the roosters, since there's not that much extra calcium (hens still need a calcium supplement if they eat layer feed). I keep roosters and hens alike together. You may need more space per bird, especially if you have more than one male, so that all of them can easily get away from each other. As for feeding, I have used two methods in the past. I have fed the whole flock unmedicated 20% protein chick starter and provided a supplement for the hens, and I've given the whole flock layer feed. I have had no problems with either method, but if you're concerned about the extra calcium, the former method is the way to go! As chick feed is a little higher in protein than layer, this is an excellent method for free ranging flocks that eat a lot of grass and seeds. Make sure you always provide free-choice oyster shell for your hens with this method, as they need the calcium for laying. 

You and your rooster

Your rooster probably won't be your best friend, but with luck and patience, he will respect you. He will make you more self sufficient by giving you the means to produce your own chicks, and he will keep your hens safer. A rooster also makes a pretty addition to your yard and will sing for you every morning, and noon, and evening! My flock would not be complete without my lovely roosters, is yours?

Do you have roosters? Do you want one? Leave a comment and share your boys! Remember to check out our Facebook page and our Instagram for regular updates!

All images used in this article are either owned by me or were obtained through Creative Commons.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Should Raw Milk Be Legal?

Most US states currently do not allow retail sale of unpasteurized (raw) milk, some barring it completely. Some states allow for the sale of raw milk to be allowed through herdshares, where customers pay for a share in a herd and receive their milk like a subscription. Those in favor of the sale of raw milk believe that it has certain health benefits, and that raw milk poses no significant health risk. Those who oppose it claim that it is too great a health risk, and that customers may not understand the risks of the drinking raw milk. So should raw milk be legal?


What is Pasteurization?

Pasteurization is the process of slowly heating milk to kill bacteria that could be contaminating it. It was developed by French scientist Louis Pasteur during the Victorian Era, and became routinely used in the US in the 1920s. The purpose of this was to reduce the number of foodborne illness caused by dairy, and is known to have been a great success. 

Potential Risks of Raw Milk Consumption

CDC and FDA data show that unpasteurized milk is significantly more likely to cause foodborne illness than pasteurized milk. The CDC reporting 1,571 known cases of foodborne illness were caused by raw milk between 1993 and 2006, and of those illnesses, 202 required hospitalization and 2 resulted in death. 60% of foodborne illness caused by dairy was due to raw milk, a disproportionate number considering how only a small percentage of the population drinks unpasteurized milk. The infections caused by raw milk were also more severe than those caused by pasteurized milk. Sanitary conditions can help reduce contamination of the milk, but cannot eliminate it entirely. Given this information, the CDC concludes that you are 150 times more likely to contract foodborne illness from unpasteurized milk than pasteurized milk. 

The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics especially advise against giving raw milk to young children, as they are particularly susceptible to some of the bacteria that unpasteurized milk may be carrying. Pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with a suppressed immune system should also avoid raw milk, the CDC says. 

Claimed Benefits of Raw Milk

Many people believe in the power of a glass of raw milk!
Many people believe that raw milk is more nutritionally complete because the pasteurization process destroys fat molecules, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that exist naturally in the milk. Advocates of raw milk say that it improves hair, skin, and nails, reduces allergies, helps increase bone density, and builds a strong immune system, among other things. They claim that raw milk has more fat soluble vitamins than that of pasteurized milk, and that is is higher in the fatty acid butyrate, which studies suggest can help people with Chrone's disease. Unpasteurized yogurt and cheeses supposedly have more probiotics than their pasteurized counterparts, theoretically making them better for the digestive system. 
An article on DrAxe.com, a website dedicated to healing through food, claims that pasteurization reduces the levels of vitamins and minerals in milk significantly. According to doctor of natural medicine Josh Axe, 66% of iron, 70% of zinc, 38% of B-complex vitamins and up to 70% of vitamin C are destroyed by pasteurization. In addition to vitamins, Dr. Axe says that important enzymes are destroyed once the milk is heated. Since many Americans do not get their recommended daily vitamins and consume a lot of pasteurized dairy, many raw milk drinkers attribute their health benefits to raw dairy. 

Legal Argument Against Raw Milk

Even healthy, free ranging cattle can carry disease
People against raw milk sales argue that it is a public health risk. This is backed up by the CDC's data that says raw milk is more likely to cause food poisoning, which can result in death. They also note that 75% of milk-related food poisoning occurred in states that allow the sale of raw dairy, solidifying the link between foodborne illness related to said dairy. The majority of people who fell ill from raw dairy were under 20 years old, suggesting that unpasteurized milk is more dangerous for younger people who may not know the risks of drinking it. 
Large factory farms produce the majority of milk to the general public, and it is nearly impossible to keep things totally clean in such large farms. They could easily take advantage of legalization and risk the safety of the public to make a profit by skipping pasteurization. If raw milk were sold on such a large scale, outbreaks could be much larger, threatening the whole of public health. According to the CDC and FDA, even if conditions are kept perfectly clean, it does not eliminate the risk of contamination because livestock carry
bacteria all over their skin. 
According to FDA research, pasteurization does not significantly reduce most of the vitamins in milk, and of those that are reduced, milk is not a good source of anyway. Their research also suggests that the enzymes that are deactivated during the process are not necessary to digest the milk and are not beneficial to human health. The reduced risk of foodborne illness outweighs the slight reduction in vitamins. They say that the claims of benefits from drinking raw milk are purely anecdotal, and that people are being mislead into believing they are fact. 

Legal Arguments in Favor of Raw Milk

Many advocates of raw milk claim that unpasteurized dairy is not dangerous when done cleanly, and agencies like the CDC and FDA manipulate statistics in order to maintain an anti-small-farm agenda. For example, rather than stating the actual chances of getting food poisoning from raw milk, they say that you are 150 times more likely to get sick from it than pasteurized milk. Considering that your risk with pasteurized milk is almost nonexistent, chances of raw milk causing illness in an individual is still too low to consider it dangerous. Others believe that the government simply should not have the right to decide what kind of food they can and can't buy. They believe, when it comes to their own health, they should be able to do their own research and make that decision themselves.

People in favor of raw dairy also note that, while the CDC recommends against raw milk, they advocate or do not wholly advise against many other potentially dangerous activities. For example, approximately 117 infant boys die due to complications with circumcision surgery per year in the United States alone. That number dwarfs the 2 deaths in thirteen years from unpasteurized dairy, yet the CDC formally recommends infant circumcision to parents. There is also 88,000 deaths caused by alcohol each year, yet is perfectly legal to sell, with a license of course, in all but a few US counties. No states have outlawed tobacco, yet smoking alone causes a whopping 480,000 deaths per year, with  over 40,000 of those deaths caused by secondhand smoke. Over 40,000 people who don't even take the risk of smoking are killed per year! The CDC advises against smoking, but no states currently ban tobacco. Raw meat dishes, such as sushi, sashimi, and steak tartare carry the same potential risk as raw milk, yet they are allowed to be served in restaurants. Given we are allowed to decide for ourselves whether or not to take these risks, raw milk supporters think that we should be able to buy whatever kind of milk we want, and it is our responsibility to understand the risk of getting sick.

According to Dr. Ted Beals, an individual is much more likely to get sick from contaminated meats than from raw milk. Dr. Beals also says that many of the bacteria present in raw milk are harmless or even beneficial to our health, and people are afraid of them because they have similar names. For example, he says that there are many types of E. coli which are harmless to us, but because one type is infectious, people feel that it all must be eradicated. This mentality causes the an unnecessary fear of raw milk.

My Opinion

I cannot say whether raw milk has any health benefits. There are virtually no studies on the matter, and I do not like to use purely anecdotal evidence to reach a conclusion. Given statistics, it's pretty safe to say that you are more likely to get sick from unpasteurized dairy than their pasteurized counterparts. However, I also eat sushi, foods with raw egg, and kiss my ducks and other pets, and I accept the risks because these things make me happy. If it makes me happy to buy milk from my neighbor that came out of a goat less than an hour ago, shouldn't that be my right? I do not believe that the government should be able to tell me that I can't pay someone for unpasteurized milk. I believe that a government which regulates my basic dietary decisions, which affect no one but me, is a government that has too much power. Sometimes, we have a personal responsibility to keep ourselves safe, and it is not up to the government to prohibit decisions that only affect one's personal safety. If I can legally give myself alcohol poisoning, smoke around my kids, and eat all of the gas station sushi my heart desires, I should be able to buy milk in its raw form. I can then risk food poisoning and drink it raw, or I can pasteurize the milk myself. That should be my choice!

However, I do understand the need to keep the general public safe. Because the majority of the milk in this country is produced by very large farms, it is very difficult to maintain cleanliness and keep track of the milk. One infected batch can reach a lot more people than one gallon of goat's milk from a single goat. Also, larger companies often mislead consumers with clever marketing tactics and information that is iffy at best. For this reason, I understand that milk from those farms must be pasteurized, but there needs to be exceptions for very small farms and hobby farms, which often only have a few gallons of milk at a time and don't sell goods in grocery stores. They should be able to sell their milk either directly or through herdshares. With these exceptions, farmers should fully disclose the potential risk of raw dairy, and should maintain certain standards of health and cleanliness. Farmers also shouldn't use rumored benefits to market their dairy, as that is misleading. Many laws make it difficult for small farmers and hobby farmers to sell their goods because they are designed to regulate factory farms. With the increasing popularity of backyard flocks and herds, legislators need to adjust laws and make exceptions for people with these small operations. 

What should you do?

Sanitary milking procedures reduce - but don't eliminate - contamination risk
Before buying or drinking raw milk, you should do plenty of research from varied sources. Raw milk should be treated similarly to raw eggs and meat. For example, I like to eat batter from cakes and and some dishes contain raw egg. In order to reduce the risk of illness, I crack the egg on the counter, rather than the bowl, to help prevent contamination of bacteria that is on the shell, and I wash the eggs well before I use them. This practice doesn't eliminate my risk, but it reduces it. If you're milking an animal, make sure your area and equipment is clean, and wash the teats and udders thoroughly. If you're buying milk from a farmer, make sure that the milking area and procedures are sanitary. Much like raw eggs and sushi, it is highly inadvisable for pregnant women, very young children, the elderly, or those with suppressed immune systems to consume raw dairy. People in these groups are at the highest risk of illness, hospitalization, or even death from foodborne illness. 

If you buy raw milk, you can pasteurize it yourself easily by heating it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. In order to maintain the quality of the milk, you should heat slowly by boiling water and placing a smaller pot of milk inside the larger pot of water, or you can use a double boiler. Use a candy or meat thermometer to assure that the milk has maintained a temperature of 165 degrees for 15 seconds.You can also pasteurize milk using a microwave. For more detailed instructions, click here!
Many states do now allow the sale of raw milk in any way. If you would like to try and change those laws, start with a letter to your state legislature. Letters do a lot more than people think - it lets lawmakers know where voters' concerns are, so they can know what would be best for the state. Your letter should be formal, typed, legible and without spelling and grammatical errors. Explain why you want to be able to buy or sell raw milk, and why you think they should listen to you. Voters change the world, and so do their voices!

Would you dip your cookies in raw milk?

Is raw milk legal in your state? Do you produce, sell, or drink raw milk? Leave a comment! Don't forget to check out our Facebook page and our Instagram for regular updates!


Sources


 "Nonpasteurized Disease Outbreaks, 1993-2006." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services, 12 Dec. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/nonpasteurized-outbreaks.html>

.Axe, Josh, Dr. "Raw Milk Benefits Skin, Allergies and Weight Loss." Dr Axe. Kymera, 13 Mar. 2014. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <http://draxe.com/raw-milk-benefits/>.


Beals, Ted, MD. "Those Pathogens, What You Should Know." A Campaign for Real Milk. Weston A. Price Foundation, 31 July 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <http://www.realmilk.com/safety/those-pathogens-what-you-should-know/>.


"Raw Milk Questions and Answers." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.US Department of Health and Human Resources, 20 Feb. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-questions-and-answers.html#sanitary>.


"The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk." Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <https://www.refme.com/us/citation-generator/mla/>.

"Tobacco-Related Mortality." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Resources, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/tobacco_related_mortality/>.

"Alcohol Deaths." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services, 30 June 2014. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/features/alcohol-deaths/>.


"Just a Harmless Snip? 100+ Circumcision Deaths Each Year in United States." Circumcision Information Australia. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <http://www.circinfo.org/USA_deaths.html>.


"Male Circumcision." Pediatrics 130.3 (2012): 1-7. Centers for Diseason Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/prevention_research_malecircumcision.pdf>.


"Home Pasteurization of Raw Milk." OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY Extension Service (2011): n. pag. Oregon State University Extension Office. OSU, Mar. 2011. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/sites/default/files/documents/sp_50-932home_pasteurizationofrawmilk_.pdf>.

"Pasteurization." International Dairy Food Association. Milk Industry Foundation, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <http://www.idfa.org/news-views/media-kits/milk/pasteurization>.

All images used in this article were obtained via Creative Commons, and are licensed for non-commercial use.