Because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has targeted bulk food contamination as a high-consequence health threat, it is even more imperative that milk transportation be secure, said Chris Thompson of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Thompson presented an update on research being conducted at the College of Agriculture for electronically tracking and documenting milk transportation at the International Milk Haulers Association Convention April 20-22 in Mesa, Arizona.

He pointed out that errors can occur with current manual methods used to track shipments. Milk tickets, wash information, and tank seals all can be susceptible to mistakes.

“What we are trying to provide first and foremost is a better security system for our dairy industry and for bulk milk transportation,” Thompson said. “Also, we are providing the added benefits of enabling our dairy partners to gather milk transportation information more quickly and cleanly. We are using our system to electronically collect the information for a normal farm milk pick-up that is currently being recorded on handwritten documents. We then transmit the information to the appropriate people throughout the dairy transportation system. We're capturing and transmitting all this information in near-real time.”

He added that the research program sought a system that is both cost-effective and user-friendly. The information gathering system, among other capabilities, tracks wash styles, measures product temperature, records driver and vehicle data, and recognizes the types of computer systems used at processors. The driver enters data using a hand-held computer that is linked into a mobile printer. A lock and keypad are installed on the cabinet door to prevent unauthorized entry.

The mobile handheld computer and the data server interface as events occur: for example, when a door is opened or when farm pick-up information is entered into the handheld.

To access the cabinet, the driver must enter a code on the keypad. The domelid also is electronically locked with similar access procedures required.

Vehicle location is monitored via a cell system. All data is conveyed immediately to chosen servers, unless the vehicle is temporarily out of range.

Groups within the dairy industry are participating in the research by providing various means of support. They include A Wilson Trucking, Bluegrass Tank and Equipment, Dairy Farmers of America Mid-East Council, Kentucky Milk Safety Branch, Slayback Milk Transport, Southern Belle Dairy, Starr Stainless, and Winchester Farms Dairy.

The project is scheduled to begin transporting milk on an experimental basis. After feedback is obtained, the truck will be put on the road for final tests, and trials are expected to be completed by December 2008.

A demonstration and discussion of the system is scheduled for Thursday, October 9, 2008, in Lexington, Kentucky. For more information about the meeting, contact Thompson at 859-257-2785, extension 240 (chris.thompson@uky.edu) or Fred Payne at 859-257-3000, extension 220 (fpayne@bae.uky.edu).