State inspectors find problems at Burnham Dairy were storm-related

OKEECHOBEE — Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspectors have reported that the alleged animal welfare abuses referenced in a complaint from the Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) were connected to Hurricane Irma, and that the deficiencies had been addressed by the dairy owners even before FDACS received the complaint.

ARM reportedly had an undercover agent at the dairy in August and September, and the allegations stem from that time.

The inspectors visited Burnham Dairy on Nov. 7, in response to an ARM complaint. An Oct. 25 report from a routine inspection indicates the issues cited by ARM were not present on Oct. 25.

The ARM video was posted online on Nov. 15.

A report issued by Alex Oliveria, diagnostic veterinarian manager with the FDACS, states: “On 11/07/2017 District 6 Supervisor Amy Cepero, Bureau of Dairy inspector Cassandra Stokes and I conducted an inspection at Burnham Dairy due to an animal welfare complaint. Investigators Daniel Hopkins and K.B. Sanders from the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) met us at the dairy around 10 a.m. At arrival we met with dairy owner Randy Burnham. Mr. Burnham was aware of the complaint and allowed us to inspect the facility and entire premises.

“We started our inspection at the milk holding tank room. There are two rooms, each with one 6,000-gallon tank. The rooms are clean and appeared to be well sanitized.

“The milk parlor was functioning and no issues were noted. All equipment, walls and floor are washed daily as recommended and pressure-washed once a week.

“Upon exiting the milk parlor all cows walk through an Allflex SCR, where animal data is collected to monitor health, heat activity, walk, etc.

“The dairy has six milking herds; four herds, with approximately 125 cows each, are kept in the free stall barn and two herds, with approximately 250 cows each, are kept in the pasture. The hospital (Pot) herd is kept in a pasture near the road and has approximately 25 cows presently. The dry cows herd, with approximately 150 cows, is kept in a back area pasture. Cull cows are kept next to the hospital herd near the road.

“Milking schedule: Free Stall cows three times daily; pasture cows two times daily.

“The cows’ Body Condition Score (BCS) average is 3; some had a BCS of 4 and others had a BCS of 2.5. Two cows were observed with a BCS below 2. (Editor’s note: The cow body range condition scoring system ranges from 1 to 5. A low score means the cow is thin. A high score means the cow is too fat. The ideal score is mid-range. Ideal range for cows one month after calving are 2.5-3.0; mid-lactation ideal score is 3.0.)

“All calves are raised and cared for in individual pens until they reach an age to be moved to a pasture with the group. The males are sold when their body weight reaches 250 lbs; females will be raised in Georgia and returned as replacement heifers.

“The dairy setup and installations are well managed and maintained, especially the free stall barn. The owners, family members, and nine employees run the daily activities of the dairy.

“Drs. Frank Bernard and Jim Harvey provide veterinary care.”

“The dairy is part of a cooperative that provides feed, nutrients and nutritional expertise support. Mr. Burnham stated that they had an increase in death loss in prior months due to excess rain and Hurricane Irma; at times it was difficult to dispose of a carcass timely. With the weather condition (Low Pressure) cows will give birth earlier and, having weak calves, the mortality increased. The access to the carcass due to ground’s condition and flood made prompt response harder. During Hurricane Irma, the dairy lost a barn and power for a week. They missed one milking and took 16 hours to reestablish power using generators, resuming dairy activities and the hard task to recover from the weather conditions.

“Mr. Burnham is aware of the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) regulations. Mr. Burnham has corrected the issues and has a hurricane/disaster plan.

“During our inspection we did not observe any exposed carcass or neglected animals on the premises.”
Another FCACS inspector, Cassandra M. Stokes, sanitation and safety specialist with the Division of Food Safety-Bureau of Dairy, also inspected the dairy on Nov. 7.

Her report states: “On Nov. 7, 2017, Animal Industry, Ag Law and myself, representing the Division of Food Safety, conducted a visit to Burnham Farms in response to a complaint. Parts of the complaint claimed unsanitary conditions on the dairy farm that would fall under the regulatory purview of Bureau of Dairy Industry. During our visit, I conducted a routine inspection to evaluate their compliance with the regulations of the Grade ‘A’ program. The facility was in substantial compliance.

“Two violations were debited on the inspection sheet, condensation deflector on drop pipe to milk tank needed to be replaced and CIP lines needed to be capped. All areas of operations were in substantial compliance with Grade ‘A’ regulations.

“Upon reviewing the complaint, the investigation seemed to be during a time of inclement weather for the area, indicated by the large amounts of water noted in the pictures. It was also noted that the area suffered a direct hit from a major hurricane in the time frame noted in the complaint. The pictures included in the third-party complaint are very uncharacteristic of this facility, and my opinion that is severe weather was a major cause for the conditions noted in the complaint.”

The FDACS Dairy Farm Inspection report for Nov. 7, 2017, gave Burnham Dairy a score of 93 out of 100 possible points. Four points were deducted for “condensation cap on drop pipe to tank needs to be replaced.” Three points were deducted for “CIP line above tank 2 needs to be capped after wash.” The report indicates this inspection was done during the morning milking time.

Previous to the ARM complaint, the last FDACS inspection of Burnham Dairy was on Oct. 25.

The Oct. 25, 2017, FDACS inspection of Burnham Dairy gave the dairy a score of 91. This inspection was conducted during the afternoon milking time. Two points were deducted for files surrounding the milk room. Two points were deducted for “milk room window screen needs to be tight-fitting to frame.” Five points were deducted for “insufficient milking, milk needs to be maintained at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or less.”

The inspection also noted the surrounding area needed to be mowed when the area dried out enough to make that possible. The dairy was given until Nov. 25 to correct the deficiencies. The inspection on Nov. 7 did not find any of these issues.

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