A University of Wisconsin study has concluded that large dairy farms—that is, CAFOs—produce higher quality milk than smaller ones.
Researcher Steve Ingham said he wanted to test the common belief that smaller farms are “better” than larger ones. So he looked at data from more than 15,000 Wisconsin dairy farms, divided into three categories by size. He used two measurements—standard plate counts and somatic cell counts—to rate milk quality. The first measures bacteria and the second infection in cows.
Milk from the CAFOs, Ingham found, had the lowest scores for both bacteria and infection levels. Large farms came in second and the small farms ranked third, or highest in both bacteria and infections.
“It could be that (CAFOs) have more money to spend on good equipment,” said Ingham, who is now with the state agriculture department. “It could be that they have the ability to cull out cows with mastitis more quickly.” Regardless, he said, “the numbers speak for themselves. They give a good snapshot of the industry right now.”
The study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Dairy Science.