Real Raw Milk Facts

Eastleigh Farm To Have Cornell Test Raw Milk After Bacteria Found

By Danielle Ameden
The MetroWest Daily News

Eastleigh Farm said yesterday that it is sending samples of raw milk from all of its cows to be tested after the dairy’s sales were shut down by the state because of high bacteria counts.

The state, in a cease-and-desist order this week, cited a March 19 sample of Eastleigh’s milk with coliform bacteria at 15 times the allowable limit.

“We’re having Cornell University check the milk from every cow just to be safe or sure,” owner Doug Stephan said. “I’m taking every precaution that is available to me.”

Stephan maintained yesterday, though, that the sample that got him shut down was an error.

Dairy Marketing Services, which hauls milk from local farms and markets it to companies such as Garelick and HP Hood, took the sample.

On his end, “the problem is that there isn’t a problem,” Stephan said.

DMS spokeswoman Karen Cartier yesterday said her company follows state and federal regulations, and samples are tested randomly and anonymously with only a bar code identifier for sorting purposes.

In milk, a high spike in coliform could be from cow feces, Board of Health Director Ethan Mascoop said.

“It could be one sick cow. It could be something happening with the cow,” he said. “It’s also the sanitation and the process – something could have broken down somewhere and you have to look for it.”

Stephan insisted that he runs a clean operation, and farm equipment is sanitized twice a day after each milking.

The Board of Health has kept a close eye on Eastleigh milk’s bacteria counts since permitting it to bottle and sell raw milk last year. Mascoop said state and local regulations are in place to try to make raw milk “at least, at some level, safer.”

“We know how to make it safe, and that’s through pasteurization – there’s no question about that,” Mascoop said. The process kills bacteria that can lead to illness.

Stephan regularly takes samples that he sends to a lab, then the board.

“He’s pretty consistently very, very clean,” Chairman Mike Hugo said.

While there have been blips, the latest results the board received, from a sample taken March 25, showed practically no coliform, Mascoop said.

Stephan expects to receive the state Department of Agricultural Resources’ OK to start selling milk again Monday.

He said many of his loyal customers are annoyed by the raw milk ban.

“They know what they’re buying,” he said. “They know what they’re getting. They know what we do.”

Since the ban, Stephan said he has sent the raw milk bottled on the farm home with staff to drink, and given it to the calves.

“I’m happy to drink it,” Stephan said.

He said Eastleigh has been selling up to 100 gallons a day of raw milk produced by 54 milking cows, and it depends on every nickel that comes in.

“This is going to hurt me financially a lot in an era when we’re trying to save the farm,” Stephan said.

The Sudbury Valley Trustees, a nonprofit organization, is now working with Stephan to preserve the land as a dairy farm. It is leading an effort to buy development rights from Stephan for $5.5 million, the remaining amount of his mortgage.

The deal would establish conservation restrictions for his 111-acre property.

In a step toward state funding, selectmen last month voted to send a letter to the town’s lawmakers saying they support the conservation effort.

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