The dairy industry is very important to Montana. We depend on Montana dairy farmers to give us the milk we drink. There are approximately 75 dairy producers in the state and they are located all over the state of Montana. Dairy producers can have as few as five milk cows and as many as 750!
Dairy operations are as diverse in their management techniques as they are in their location and number of cows. Milk for public consumption is picked up and taken to one of four processing plants in the state. There is a plant in Bozeman, Great Falls, Billings and Deer Lodge. After the milk is dropped off at the plants, then the plant can make a number of products.
After the processing plants produce the products, they can ship them to the stores for you to buy. Sometimes neighboring states won't have enough milk, so Montana will sell them milk to help them out. On the other hand, Montana will sometimes buy milk from other states.
Montana's milk is divided into three categories. Class I, Class II, and Class III milk. Class I milk products include the milk we drink on a daily basis. Examples of Class I products include buttermilk, chocolate milk, and homogenized milk. Class II milk includes cottage cheese, sour cream, all types of ice cream and mixes, egg nog, and yogurt. Class III includes hard cheese, butter, and cream cheese. Class II and III are the smallest of Montana's three classes of milk. Montana's dairy farmers are paid by hundredweight. For every hundred pounds of milk the dairy farmer produces, they will get paid a certain amount. The amount that a dairy farmer is paid, for all three classes of milk, is determined by the state of Montana.
Today, scientists are are always finding new ways to fight illnesses. Did you know that scientists can now change the DNA of a milk cow so that she can produce human enzymes in her milk? One example of this is the production of insulin for use by people with diabetes. This type of enzyme production creates an enzyme that is more compatable to humans so that it will work better to help people with illnesses.