County dairy farms recognized for their high-quality milk

ADDISON COUNTY — Vermont farms produce some of the best dairy product in the country, but several local dairy farms are being recognized for the truly outstanding quality of their milk.
Agri-Mark Cabot recently honored Kettletop Farm in Weybridge and Cher Mi Farm in Orwell as among the top 28 farms in the 1,260-farm cooperative that stretches across New England and to central New York state in its Top Quality Award competition.
In the co-op’s Region 8, which encompasses 75-100 farms in western Vermont, Kettletop, operated by Nate and Sue Miller, was No. 1 and Cher Mi, run by Miles and Cheryl Tudhope, was No. 2.
Kettletop also recently was recognized by the Dairy Herd Information Association of Lancaster, Pa., for its outstanding milk quality from among farms throughout the broader Northeast region.
Agri-Mark Cabot spokesman Doug DiMento said the Agri-Mark Cabot farms were judged on the bacteria count and somatic cell count in the raw milk collected from the bulk tank, as well as on farm inspections.
The somatic cell count of the Millers’ milk, for instance, was 71,769, and the Tudhopes’ was 104,164, DiMento said.
“Most farms are over 100,000,” he added. “A lot of guys win tops in the region with counts in the 90,000s.”
The onsite inspectors look for things like screens on the milk room door and cracks in the walls and floor that could hold bacteria.
“Our inspection standards are higher than state and federal ones,” he said.
It is all geared toward cleanliness, which leads to higher-quality milk, DiMento said.
“Milk quality is very important to having a high-quality end product. Our products are high-end,” he said. “Low (bacteria and somatic cell) counts improve shelf life, taste and yields” of cheese and yogurt from the milk.
Other local dairy farmers were honored for producing high-quality cow and goat milk at the Dairy Farmers’ Appreciation Banquet held Jan. 31 during the Vermont Farm Show.
The 2012 overall highest-quality goat milk award went to Keith and Cindy Tifft of Orwell.
In the cow milk category, the Overall Best Quality Award went to the North Hardwick Dairy run by the Meyer family. The first runner-up was the Andrew and Debra Hogan farm in Whiting, and second runner-up was the Dale and Alma Briggs farm in Addison.
A change in the nomination criteria for the quality awards this year resulted in 67 cow milk quality nominees and six goat milk quality nominees qualifying the competition. This is the fifth year goat milk quality awards have been presented. As with the Agri-Mark Cabot awards, the Farm Show judging parameters included bacterial and somatic cell counts as well as farm inspection scores.
The Tiffts were the only local nominees in the Goat Milk category.
The 2012 quality cow milk nominees from Addison County were:
•  Allendale Farm, Joe and Claudia Allen, Panton.
•  Andrew and Debra Hogan, Whiting.
•  Bolduc Farm Inc., New Haven.
•  CE and HC and RB and C Estey, Bristol.
•  Dale and Alma Briggs, Addison.
•  David and Mary Essex, Vergennes.
•  Jason Hatch (two farms), Vergennes.
•  Jeff and Olive Phillips, Bristol.
•  Lee and Lisa Terrier, Middlebury.
•  Mark and Carol Russell, Orwell.
•  Woodnotch Farm Inc., Shoreham.
Editor’s note: UVM Extension Dairy Specialist Julie Smith contributed to this article.

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