New tests for dairy producers offered at Horizon Lab

Dust can settle in vials after cleaning and before testing, so make sure to double-check your containers

Manitoba dairy producers will no longer have to make phone calls to figure out why their milk samples weren’t tested.

In the past, producers who didn’t see their results would have to call Horizon Lab in Winnipeg to figure out what went wrong. Now, affected producers will be automatically emailed whenever a sample can’t be tested.

“Before if we had a rejection for some reason, we did document it and have it available in our lab… but what we are doing now is sending an email each time, which says, you won’t see a result and explains that this is the reason why,” said lab director, Yolo Ortiz.

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The change came into effect in March, and was endorsed by producers at a recent meeting in Winkler who said it helped simplify their own work.

Ortiz used the meeting as an opportunity to remind dairy farmers that while knowing what went wrong is important, the best offence is a good defence.

“The best thing is to not have the sample rejected,” she said, reminding producers to only fill sample files to the fill-line.

“Basically we are seeing overfilled situations, we have a small plastic container and it’s important to make sure that it’s not overfilled… that is the right amount of sample, so we can test it,” she said.

Taking care to properly seal sample vials is also key — if a seal is broken or improperly attached a sample will be rejected.

In March, the lab rejected 145 samples for a variety of reasons, but the lab director was quick to point out that while the numbers might seem high, they only represent a small fraction of the samples pro-cessed by the lab.

“That is only between one and 1.5 per cent of the samples we receive,” said Ortiz. “So it is a very small amount of samples that is rejected, and I’m sure that it will be every time less and less.”

She also reminded producers that using properly cleaned vials is paramount to keeping the lab working smoothly.

“Sometimes it is cleaned, but then it sits for a while and dust comes,” she said, explaining that even a small amount of dust or foreign particles can bring work to a halt.

“Our equipment is very, very sensitive and the lines that we have are thinner than even our hair for example, so when it comes to cleaning it is really a problem when you have something that is solid and cannot be dissolved, like dust,” said Ortiz. “It takes a lot of time, just because you first have to try the usual ways with hot water and soaps, and if that doesn’t work, you have to take all the pieces apart, flush back the system with specific syringes, then put it back and finally re-calibrate the equipment.”

Horizon Lab, a subsidiary of Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, has also expanded the number of types of tests it offers producers, thanks in part to funding from Growing Forward 2, provided late last year.

A high-performance liquid chromatography unit has been installed, which is used to identify and measure any potential impurities in milk, including a wide range of antibiotics.

The new unit improves upon the testing equipment previously in place, and reduces the need to send some samples out of province for additional specialized tests, if issues are found during routine procedures.

“So there are a few more services we are offering,” Ortiz said. “One is new testing for the manure-monitoring program, and the other one is we are testing for a specific pathogen that causes mastitis.

“So if you need something, you can just call and tell us,” she said.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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