Edmonton farmers scramble to upgrade their raw milk dairy to meet Cow Share Canada standards of operation

From a story in yesterday’s Edmonton Journal by Brent Wittmeier:

Judith Johnson and Henry Pudlow protest the closure of their cow share operation at the Alberta Legislature on Nov. 8, 2010. Photograph by: Karen Kleiss, edmontonjournal.com

“EDMONTON — Edmonton-area farmers are scrambling to restructure an unpasteurized dairy business after a prominent raw milk advocate withdrew support this week.

On Monday, Ontarian farmer and raw milk advocate Michael Schmidt was in front of Alberta legislature, championing unpasteurized milk — which is currently illegal in Canada — as safe and healthier than pasteurized milk products sold in grocery stores.

While initially championing the cause of Beulah Novelty Food Co-op, Schmidt announced Wednesday he had withdrawn support of Judith Johnson and Eric Pudlo’s Wildwood business, about 120 kilometres west of Edmonton. The decision came after he visited the business, where Schmidt found two “drastic” violations standards set by Cow Share Canada, the organization he heads. Schmidt says the business hasn’t tested incoming cows for communicable diseases, and doesn’t regularly test the sanitation levels of its production facility.

“These are two very crucial elements,” Schmidt said. “We had to tell them to stop providing their cow share members with milk.”

The issue and initial legislature protest was sparked in part by a recent seizure of raw milk from Beulah Novelty Food Co-op….”

“…Reached at their farm, Johnson and Pudlo say they plan to restructure their business to comply with Cow Share Canada standards. However, they admit it’s been a frustrating experience to have Schmidt pull his support.

“We’re kind of upset because we didn’t realize the standards,” Johnson said. “He’s pretty much cut off our livelihood and all of our cow share people are angry because I’m not allowed to ship milk anymore.”

Without Schmidt’s backing, the group can’t afford to risk further confrontations with Alberta Health Services.

The small business has relied almost entirely on word of mouth and friends and family. Johnson and Pudlo currently have eight cows, with only four producing milk at any time. Johnson says the daily volumes of milk vary, from 10 litres produced on Thursday to a maximum of just under 50 litres. Milk is distributed in glass jars washed solely with soap and water. Johnson makes butter with two mixers in a standard country kitchen.

Pudlo says the company accepts Schmidt’s assessment and is planning on restructuring the business to surpass dairy industry standards. It will take an estimated $30,000 investment — an industrial processing room and a new barn — to bring the business up to standard. They have already been in contact with a veterinarian….”

Read the whole story in the Edmonton Journal.

22 Comments

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22 responses to “Edmonton farmers scramble to upgrade their raw milk dairy to meet Cow Share Canada standards of operation

  1. Bernie

    It would have been nice to know these details at the same time it was announced the cowshare was being shut down. It gives a whole other outlook to the situation.

  2. latte_girl

    I hope that Judith (or Eric) and Michael both have time to comment on the story. It’s presented in a very adversarial tone. But then at the end, Eric states that they accept Michael’s assessment and will try to bring the cow share up to CSC standards.

    I’d like to think that even if Cow Share Canada can not endorse Wildwood’s current raw milk production methods, they are there to lend support and encouragement to Wildwood’s attempts to correct the situation.

  3. thebovine

    In his last email Michael did say that he WOULD elaborate further on the situation with Judith and Eric’s cowshare in Alberta: https://thebovine.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/raw-milk-farmer-michael-schmidt-speaks-at-weston-a-price-foundation-conference-in-philadelphia/

  4. Michael

    Latte girl
    you got the point. I am here to not shut down for the purpose to destroy a farm family. In this case it was not only to protect them it was to protect the future of raw milk farms.
    I am daily discussing the issues with Judith and Eric. Eric fully understands the need for change.
    Cow Share Canadas position is to help where ever we can without compromising the ultimate goal of accountability.
    Getting back to the debate of regulations I am of the position that if we cannot provide a constructive proposal as an alternative measure to Government regulations we all will be toast.

    • Bernie

      Michael, I’m happy to say I just got off the phone with Erick. He and I had a great chat, and I now have a MUCH better understanding of what is going on and what role the CSC is playing. I believe I will be joining the CSC come the new year. After that I will be in contact with Erick to find out what I need to do to get on track. We have exchanged phone and fax numbers.

      We were already planning a new dairy barn so adding an extra processing room/building won’t be an issue. I will be on the phone today to get information regarding the testing both my cows and any further cows that come into the herd. I am waiting on work from Erick before going further with milk testing.

      I would caution everyone that all is not what it seems, this farmer has not been left high and dry!

      As soon as we can we will find time to visit Erick and Judith as we don’t live that far from them.

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  6. miguel

    I wonder if one of the communicable diseases that was not tested for is TB.I have investigated the TB test extensively and I would not test my cows for TB.There is no way to tell if a cow has TB short of an autopsy.Check out Andre Voisin’s book Soil,Grass and Cancer to see what he says about TB.

    Lawrence Broxmeyer also has some interesting ideas relating Bovine TB,Bovine TB testing and BSE(mad cow disease).

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15325025

    “Is mad cow disease caused by a bacteria?

    Broxmeyer L.”

    “Recently, Roels and Walravens isolated Mycobacterium bovis from the brain of a cow with the clinical and histopathological signs of mad cow. Moreover, epidemiologic maps of the origins and peak incidence of BSE in the UK, suggestively match those of England’s areas of highest bovine tuberculosis(and coincidently,forced yearly testing), the Southwest, where Britain’s mad cow epidemic began. The neurotoxic potential for cow tuberculosis was shown in pre-1960 England, where one quarter of all tuberculous meningitis victims suffered from Mycobacterium bovis infection. And Harley’s study showed pathology identical to “mad cow” from systemic M. bovis in cattle, causing a tuberculous spongiform encephalitis. In addition to M. bovis, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (fowl tuberculosis) causes Johne’s disease, a problem known and neglected in cattle and sheep for almost a century, and rapidly emerging as the disease of the new millennium. Not only has M. paratuberculosis been found in human Crohn’s disease, but both Crohn’s and Johne’s both cross-react with the antigens of cattle paratuberculosis. Furthermore, central neurologic manifestations of Crohn’s disease are not unknown. There is no known disease which better fits into what is occurring in Mad Cow and the spongiform enchephalopathies than bovine tuberculosis and its blood-brain barrier penetrating, virus-like, cell-wall-deficient forms. It is for these reasons that future research needs to be aimed in this direction.”

    I would like to know exactly what is in that injection they are giving the cow when they do the TB test.Could it be that there is a little bit of “bovine tuberculosis and its blood-brain barrier penetrating, virus-like, cell-wall-deficient form” in that injection?Has anyone checked to see if there is?

  7. latte_girl

    Miguel,

    Since I had time this afternoon, I read the journal abstract you provided as well as some others by Broxmeyer. I then cross-referenced all of the medical conditions and diseases he cites. All I can say is “Huh”?

    My understanding of Broxmeyer’s theory is that science has concentrated on studying a symptom of TSE’s (transmissible spongiform encephalopathies like mad cow disease) rather than isolating the cause. Furthermore, he believes the cause of TSE’s is related to animal carried tuberculosis.

    Broxmeyer even speculates that up to 13% of Alzheimers patients actually suffer from a latent TSE, not actual Alzheimers.

    Broxmeyer advocates for the eradication of animal carried tuberculosis from the food supply and stresses the importance of testing for tuberculosis. True, he does say that testing methods need to improve so that they are more timely and accurate, but this is far from suggesting that testing should be forfeited.

    As I understand it, autopsy is the only way to be 100% sure than an animal had tuberculosis. But current testing methods on living animals are over 80% accurate.

    By the way, TSE’s can not be killed by pasteurization, boiling, or irradiation. So drinking raw milk will not increase your risk of contracting these devastating diseases if they are present in the milk supply. But it’s Broxmeyer’s position that you should avoid the health risks associated with all animal tuberculosis (including TSE’s) and this can only be accomplished through tuberculosis testing.

  8. miguel

    How can we test for TB?The current tests run the risk of injecting cell wall deficient TB into the cow.The estimate of 80% accuracy is not correct.1% to 5 % false positive is likely correct but only 15% false negative depends on the health of the cow.The worse the TB infection,the more likely the cow is to test negative.The test is a test of the immune system’s ability to mount a response to the injection.In three days the response should be visible,but if the immune system is compromised the response may be delayed or there might be no response at all even though the cow has TB.The test is most accurate when the cow is not suffering from chronic inflammation.Factory farm cows are less likely to test positive even though they are kept under the conditions that favor the development of TB.A positive test result really tells us that the cow has been exposed to TB,not that it has TB.Read what Andre Voisin says about this.I have read that all people over 50 years old test positive to TB.We don’t want to eliminate all of the cows that are not sick even though they have been exposed.If TB can be passed through cow’s milk why can’t they test the milk to see if there is the TB bacteria in it the way they do with mycobacterium avium tuberculosis?

  9. latte_girl

    Honestly Miguel, I don’t know why they can’t test the milk. My only guess is that it has something to do with the TB bacteria concentration in milk that makes the test inaccurate.

    Thanks to all those articles you had me read, I understand that TB bacteria only divide every 16 to 20 hours. They can also be dormant for long periods of time.

    So like I said, only a guess, but maybe by the time TB has reproduced enough in milk to give an accurate reading, the milk would be spoiled. And imagine if the process took months and the farmer was unable to sell whatever other milk the cow was producing until he had the results.

    But what makes TB really nasty is that it only takes 10 bacterium to settle in the human body and reproduce. A person could be asymptomatic for years then find themselves seriously ill from milk they drank a decade ago.

    However, this process would probably be accelerated in a cow share (or homestead) model. Since a cow share member is always drinking milk from a singular source, if that source is contaminated the cow share member is getting repeated exposure. A higher concentration of the TB bacteria in someone’s body would likely mean a faster onset of TB symptoms.

    I really do appreciate the fact you steered me towards reading more about TB today, it’s something I had been meaning to do. As a child during WWII, my father contracted TB (I doubt it had anything to do with milk, just war and poverty). But every few years (including recently), his TB “wakes up” and causes him problems. I’m glad to know more about it.

  10. miguel

    Latte-girl,
    You are right about the difficulties and time involved in culturing TB from milk.Just recently it seems that a test that overcomes these problems has been developed.I wonder how long it will be before we can use it to test our cow’s milk?

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20890843

    The abstract

    http://www.im.microbios.org/1302/IM1302_0091.pdf

    The whole pdf

    • nedlud

      Let’s see….4 producing cows, $30,000 additional investment (plus interest) in order to be able to qualify to sell that milk from those 4 (count ’em four)…..maybe…..sounds like a genuine bargain….for somebody.

      Oh and wait! Further veterinarian fees. Ahhh, well, ‘expertise’ and ‘safety’ doesn’t come cheap. (It can’t.)

      They (Judith and Henry) do look gullible and rather plain in that picture don’t they? Pretty poor and simple people. Trusting.

      S0 maybe they’d swallow the bait for $60,000.

      Whaddya say?

      Aim high and surpass!

      All of a sudden, I’ve become mighty sick of Michael Schmidt.

  11. miguel

    http://www.northernexpress.com/editorial/features.asp?id=2773

    http://www.purdeyenvironment.com/medhyp2006.htm

    These two articles explain why some people believe that bovine TB is caused by environmental factors rather than simple exposure to the TB bacteria.

  12. Michael

    Dear Nedlud
    thanks for making your assumptions and come to conclusions which are pretty far off the wall.
    I have to admit that this decision will create some kind of animosities and resistance.
    Unless you have all the information it us hard to come to a fair conclusion.
    30 000.-was a number which was picked by someone who had no idea at all what it takes to get up to standard.
    Know all the facts before you judge.
    I prefer a constructive dialogue instead of emotional diarreah.
    Consider your 60 000.-scenario, I rather spent that on building a pristine operation instead of wasting it on lawyers and courts because you have a lawsuit on your hand.

  13. Michael

    Nedlud
    besides the point Eric himself understands much better than you what needed to be done. He wants to do it right.
    Loosing your livelyhood because youhave no proper understanding what you are doing is not pleasant.
    I have been on the road formonths now to help cow share operations without making Or charging a cent.
    You might want to join to help farmers to find a way to make a living I can give you some ideas where to start.

  14. latte_girl

    To Miguel and Nedlud,

    I think you are 2 of my favourite commenters on this blog, whether or not I sometimes (and even often) disagree with you.

    You both are idealistic and passionate. Two qualities that inspire change.

    Sustainable, natural farming practices, are becoming lost in a sea of mass-produced “Frankenfoods”. Even a city-dweller like myself understands the importance of preserving this way of life.

    But before we can preserve it, I believe we have to restore it. Like a broken antique couch, someone needs to fix it before it falls apart further and becomes irrepairable.

    There are not limitless resources to invest in the restoration process. A small operation like Wildwood probably can not afford to take certain risks. For example, introducing a diseased cow into their small herd would be devastating both financially and emotionally. My understanding is that Michael is helping them to analyze the risks so they can use their limited financial resources wisely.

    Because there are so few surviving small-scale farms they really need to concentrate on “the best of the best”. As unsympathetic as this statement might seem, they need to concentrate on the “best” cows. In 20 years, maybe it’s possible that we have culled and bred so many good cows that we can eat and drink their products without reservation, without the need for constant testing.

    But it will be 20 years. Decades of sloppy industrial practices have eroded what was once a very simple and beautiful way of life. Practical (not just idealistic) measures must be taken to restore the traditional homestead. And once restored, we must be vigilant in preserving this way of life as a socially and economically viable option.

    I once received a wonderful piece advice from a friend when I was frustrated and felt like giving up on one of my ideals: “This is a test of your endurance. The path in life is sometimes a marathon, not a sprint.”

    Nedlud, don’t give up on your ideals. But pace yourself, we still have many miles to go.

  15. miguel

    I have searched for an answer to the question:Does the present form of testing for TB run the risk of exposure to “bovine tuberculosis and its blood-brain barrier penetrating, virus-like, cell-wall-deficient form”.

    I have found only this answer:”As with all injected substances, there is a small risk of introducing L-form bacteria because the filter used for the antigen isn’t small enough to exclude these tiny bacteria.”

    http://mpkb.org/home/special/vaccines_and_shots

    If we require yearly TB testing,it seems to me that the small risk might become a risk we would rather not take especially if we are given the less invasive option of testing the milk or nasal discharge for TB.

    I am in favor of standards.I just want everyone to question the standards before they are accepted purely for “pragmatic” reasons.The standards we choose now will dictate where we will find ourselves in a few years.I think the dairy industry took the first wrong turn years ago when it chose the infectious model of disease over the environmental model.

  16. latte_girl

    I won’t disagree with you Miguel that we need safer and better testing and vaccination methods. Not only for the cows, but for ourselves as well.

    I don’t own a cow. I’ve never had to sit down and contemplate the risks and rewards between testing and not testing, vaccinating and not vaccinating. But if I was in that position I’d have to ask myself:

    “Can I afford to raise a cow with an an active infection? And is it more likely an active infection could mutate into something worse and unknown than the small exposure from something like the TB test?”

    A lot of people praise Bernard on this site. His theory of homeostasis: a body in good condition has the ability to absorb and neutralize small exposures to toxicity. Wouldn’t the current TB test be considered a small exposure to toxicity and a healthy cow be able to fight it?

    But as I said, I have no cow and have never had to make these decisions. I can only speculate on what factors I would consider.

    Every situation is different. I don’t get the flu vaccine, but when I cut myself on a piece of street glass I did get a tetanus shot. My husband and I made the costly choice to be immunized against hepatitis A and B when we traveled to an underdeveloped county. What resources were there if we got sick? But I wouldn’t have made the same choice if we had stayed home instead of going on that trip.

  17. miguel

    Latte_girl,

    I like Mark Purdy’s approach.Do everything possible to understand how to reduce susceptibility to disease and then manage yourself and your cows that way.When vaccinations and injections were first used,medical professionals thought they knew just what it was that was in the injection.Now they know better,but still go on as if everything is safe.Exposure to bacteria through the digestive system is the normal way to gain immunity.An injection directly into the blood bypasses much of our immune system and is more likely to lead to unexpected problems.

  18. chat

    nice sharing .. thanks

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