By Brandy Harrison
MISSISSAUGA — The number of penalties for dairy farms that didn’t make the grade last year began to climb when Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) staff started dropping by without warning.
From August 2014 to July 2015, 127 farms were handed 210 non-Grade A penalties, up from 101 penalties in the previous 12-month period. Five farms failed to clean up their act four months in a row and were barred from shipping milk.
After inspections to ensure cleanliness of milking, cooling, and storage equipment, the cows, and the interior of the barn is up to par as per Milk Act regulations, farms can be classified as Grade A, conditional with a grace period to deal with risk areas, non-Grade A with a milk cheque penalty, or unsanitary with an immediate shut off. Last year, 15 unsanitary ratings were handed out.
The penalty for non-Grade A starts at $2 per hectolitre for all milk shipped in the first month, increasing by $2 each month for four months if problem areas still aren’t up to standard.
Grade A inspections are done in conjunction with regular Canadian Quality Milk program validations every two years and on a risk-based schedule that takes into account inspection history and milk quality tests for bacteria, somatic cell count, abnormal freezing point, and inhibitors.
But to ensure farms kept it up between visits, the DFO retooled risk criteria and began unannounced inspections in fall 2014, says George MacNaughton, DFO director of operations and regulatory compliance. While visiting an at-risk farm, staff may also pop in to check out the neighbour’s barn, he says.
“Anybody can be inspected at any time. The expectation is that farms maintain Grade A standards at all times.”