The transportation and courier system covers about 14 states and is comprised of 25-30 couriers who drive more than 160,000 miles per month. This is the method by which the majority of Dairy One DHIA samples and bulk tank producer payment samples end up at the Dairy One Milk Laboratory every day. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, this team is out on the road transporting samples from processing plants and drop off points to the lab to ensure farmers receive the information and payment they rely on.
There are about 210 pick-up points across the Northeast, each visited by couriers about 3 times per week. These pick-up points are utilized by DHIA Field technicians, feed consultants, farmers, farm inspectors and others who are looking to have samples transported to Ithaca for analysis. While milk is the most common sample transported through this system, it has also become an efficient way for other samples such as forage, soil, and water to make their way to the respective labs in Ithaca. A map of these pick-up locations and how to utilize them for sample transportation can be found here.
While the transportation of these samples is crucial to the day to day functioning of the lab and its customers, couriers are responsible for much more than getting samples from point A to point B. Couriers must remain as timely as possible when it comes to their transportation routes. Variance in the time at which samples are picked up or equipment is dropped off at a location can affect those using the system. A pick up that occurs too early may result in someone’s sample not making it on the truck and equipment being dropped off at another stop late can delay a technician’s schedule.
One of the most important roles of the courier is keeping samples safe. It is crucial that these samples stay at the appropriate temperature. Producer payment samples that have frozen or become too warm will no longer be an accurate representation of a farm’s milk components or bacteria count. Additionally, couriers must ensure that the samples do not become contaminated during their journey, whether by water, dirt, or other factors which may change the composition of the sample.
Samples that have been exposed to extreme temperatures or contamination become a problem for a few reasons. For DHIA samples, farmers depend on results to make herd management decisions. While these samples do contain a small amount of preservative, it’s important that they still be protected from extreme temperature changes and contamination. Producer payment samples are also used by farmers to make management decisions. However, these are the samples that determine how much a farm is paid. For example, a sample that becomes too warm can become subject to increased bacteria count and decreased fat and protein percentages. On a 400-cow dairy making around 1,000,000 pounds of milk a month, a .10% decrease in butterfat or protein can cost upwards of $1,000 or even $2,000.
In the last few weeks, Dairy One employees involved with transportation have been traveling throughout the Northeast to meet with couriers and others who have interaction and involvement with this system. Being able to connect with this team has been a great way to ensure our transportation practices are consistent, helping to provide our customers with timely and accurate results.