Dairy producers who culture their own milk gain valuable information about the health of their herd and can develop treatment plans based on homegrown bacteria. "They are able to target treatment more effectively and reduce unneeded antibiotic use significantly," Phil Durst, Michigan State University (MSU) senior Extension educator, said. On-farm milk culturing is beneficial because it allows farmers to determine which cows are having problems and to design treatment plans that improve milk quality. Durst says that the one person in charge of culturing the milk should be extremely concerned with following protocol. Improper sampling can lead to inaccurate results. "Make sure you are collecting samples properly, because 99.9 percent of contaminated samples result from mistakes during collection," Durst said. "Whoever is in charge of culturing should have some sort of authority in the parlor as well as additional training with a veterinarian," Durst said. "This will ensure the success of the culturing beyond short term." Good recordkeeping practices are important to keep track of each cow's results. Include Cow ID and date in these records. You can find culturing supplies at many different supply stores, and startup and maintenance costs are relatively cheap. Dairy producers should visit Michigan State University Extension News for more information about how to culture milk on the farm and methods for mastitis control. This online resource features helpful articles about various topics submitted by MSU Extension experts throughout the state. Find MSU Extension News at news.msue.msu.edu. 11.07.2011