BRIEF SUMMARY OF WHAT THE NEW LAW SAYS:
1. Producers may have up to five lactating dairy cows, or ten lactating dairy goats or sheep. You may have both cows and goats/sheep if you consider the formula that two goats or sheep equals one cow, i.e., three cows and four goats/sheep. We all understand that two goats/sheep are not equal to one cow, but legislators do not understand the nuances and this is what we have.
2. Sales may take place at a farm, home or “traditional community social event” as defined by SB199 or other location agreed to by the producer and consumer. This includes Farmers Markets, so if your local sanitarian tries to stop you from selling at a market or tries to make you obtain a permit, they are wrong.
3. Producers must inform end consumers that anything they sell has not been licensed, permitted, certified, packaged, labeled, or inspected per any official regulations.
4. Producers must test every six months for standard plate count, coliform count, and somatic cell count. (Milk samples may be co-mingled.) Brucellosis testing once a year (goats and sheep too). Test results must be maintained for two years and provided to Department of Livestock if Livestock suspects the small dairy is causing a foodborne illness.
5. Producers may not donate milk to a “traditional community social event” as defined by the bill. (It seemed it was a concern that people wouldn't know what they were getting if the product wasn't purchased.)
Producers are now able to advertise.
Producers are responsible to learn all of the requirements. Full bill language here. https://legiscan.com/MT/text/SB199/id/2378352
Much of the legalese in the bill is a requirement that the bill drafter must include all the relevant existing laws and how those are changed by this law. Much of the information is pertaining to Grade As and doesn't include us, so you want to look at the parts of those sections where an underlined phrase says "Except for a small dairy" [5 cows, 10 goats or less] or "Except for milk or cream sold as homemade food or a homemade food product pursuant to [sections 1 through 3]" or "Except for milk produced from a small dairy as defined in 81-21-101"
ALERT: Montana DPHHS has been providing producers with a 13-page document that is causing confusion. DPHHS is using wording that appears to add requirements to SB199 such as additional testing, pull dates, different warning labels, milking facility requirements, etc. These are ONLY suggestions. The only requirements to comply with SB199 are numbers one through five above.
TEST KITS may be obtained from UdderHealth.com in Idaho (this is the company we recommend, there are others). UH gets glowing reviews from many of our producers. The MT state lab will not accept small producer milk. There are lots of other great resources at UH as well. See below for testing number standards to shoot for.
Udder Health has changed their procedures.
First time testers will need to purchase a New Customer Test kit and, once milk samples are returned, will receive 30 minutes of consultation to discuss results. https://www.udderhealth.com/homestead-services/
Returning customers will have 15 minutes of consultation as they are familiar with the process, but can also book longer consults at the UH store if needed. https://www.udderhealth.com/store/
Thirty minute consultations may be scheduled by any customer for pre-testing purchase questions, additional results troubleshooting, milking procedure and equipment, etc.
You may utilize UH's UPS account to overnight your milk samples, which gives you a 50% discount on shipping (without the discount, this runs $60-70 or more depending on zip code)! This discount is accomplished by using their shipping portal.
These are highly experienced and seasoned professionals. The owner, Dr. Britten, is a veterinarian with degrees in epidemiology and microbiology. His daughter Justine, the lab director, has a PhD in Veterinary and Dairy Science and she is a member of our Facebook group page. We are so grateful to have them in our corner!
TESTING NUMBER STANDARDS:
Several producers have asked what testing numbers to shoot for. Given Udder Health's education, expertise and experience in the field, we are recommending the numbers they came up with for us as goals for safe milk. Part of the benefit of going with UH is they will help you navigate all this.
The link to their FAQs and suggested numbers follows, but simply put, they recommend a coliform count of less than 15 CFU/ml, standard plate count less than 5,000/ml and somatic cells less than 200,000/ml for cows, and double that for goats/sheep.
Montana enjoys national Brucellosis free status and wants to keep it that way. To maintain such, small producer dairy animals (including goats and sheep) are required to show yearly negative Brucellosis results. An accredited vet will send blood samples to an accredited lab. Some lab options a vet might choose:
Washington State Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab – accredited, state to state and US to Canada
Idaho State Lab
Montana State Lab (MSL will not accept small producers' milk samples for bacteria testing.)
SELLING MILK AS PET FOOD:
If you want to sell milk as pet food, you must follow the testing, labeling, licensing and registration rules per the Montana Department of Agriculture found here https://agr.mt.gov/Topics/E-G/Feed-Pages/Pet-Food-Pages/Pet-Food-Specialty-Pet-Food
and here https://agr.mt.gov/Topics/E-G/Feed-Pages/Pet-Food-Pages/Pet-Food-Labeling-Requirements
ON LINE FOOD SAFETY COURSES:
We encourage producers to take simple on-line food safety courses (Bozeman doesn't do on-line, must do in person) which gives you a certificate and is nationally recognized.
Recommended by our attorney (not required):
Montana Food Handler Class (an hour for a certificate)
Montana Food Handler Training (2 hours, $25, stronger certification - click the "food handler training" tab)
LEGAL AND INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES FOR PRODUCERS:
Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund can help producers with legal issues and resources. Their foundation has great resources here: https://f2cfnd.org/
Weston A Price Foundation https://www.westonaprice.org/
We recommend Peggy Beals (Pathologist Dr. Ted Beals' wife - an RN) book "Caring For Fresh Milk" for $6 at this site (S&H included! Bulk Rate discount of 25 copies for $87.50)
Farm to Consumer Foundation books “How to Care For Milk” come in a cow edition and a goat edition, and are $20 a piece
FACEBOOK COMMUNITY RESOURCES: (Some examples of where Montana producers are able to find support)
Come Boss! Dairy Cow Information and Support.
The Guernsey Cow
Women in Agriculture
Holistic Goat Care
Successful Goating with Rosie
Goat Vet Corner (you have to follow the rules, but only veterinarians can answer)