O.M.G. You use rbST?


It is true, we use rbST on our dairy farm.  Maybe you have heard good things about this tool, maybe you have heard bad things or maybe you know nothing at all.  One thing is for sure, the media gives this stuff a bad name.  Even the labels on your milk jug can be confusing!  Have you ever noticed the fine print on your milk carton?


  The truth is that there is nothing to be afraid of.  rbST or Recombinant bovine somatotropin is a synthetic version of the protein, bovine somatotropin, that is given to dairy cattle to boost milk production.  Bovine somatotropin is a naturally occurring protein in all dairy cows that helps coordinate nutrients to the udder for milk production.  Cows injected with the synthetic version are simply just being given more of a protein they already have.

When a dairy cow gives birth to her calf, she gradually produces more milk each day until she reaches her peak milk production level at about 60 days, at which time her milk production declines over time. rbST supplementation is initiated between day 57 and 70 of the lactation cycle and helps cows prolong an improved level of milk production. Basically it helps the cow eat more and efficiently produce more.  The key word here is efficient.  rbST will not work if the cow is not healthy, is not provided with good nutrition and comfort.  rbST helps coordinate nutrients to boost milk production in healthy cows.  You could give a cow fifty injections of rbST, but if she is not healthy or happy the rbST will have no effect.

Here I am holding a box of rbST.  Aren't my nails pretty?

Here I am holding a box of rbST. Aren’t my nails pretty?

So why use rbST? What is the point? Why do farmers need to boost milk production?  Dairy farming is more than just a way of life, it is a business.  We pay our bills with the money we get for milk.  By using rbST our family is able to get more milk out of our cows and be more profitable.  Globally, rbST allows dairy producers to feed the growing population with less. In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts a 60-percent increase in demand for meat, milk and eggs by 2050. Technology like rbST will play a HUGE role in food production because it allows us to grow and produce more with limited land and resources.  Fellow farmers, we have a growing population to feed…are you up to the challenge?!

Next time you visit the dairy case, don’t be fooled by misleading labels such as “bST free” or “no hormones”.  ALL milk has hormones in it because ALL cows produce hormones naturally.  The protein/hormone is species specific, so if you drink milk from cows injected with rbST, it will not affect you.  Your ten-year old daughter isn’t going to grow ginormous breasts or anything crazy like that.  Have no fear!  rbST is one of the most researched products in animal agriculture and approved by the FDA.

Milk is milk. No matter what brand or type of milk you choose, know it is safe.  There is no bad choice in the dairy case so,  DRINK UP!

Want to learn more about farm technology?  Check out www.sensibletable.com.


12 thoughts on “O.M.G. You use rbST?

  1. Man, this is super good. You’re a great writer, and I’m glad you’re posting things like this because it seems like so much of the marketing of “healthier” products is based on fear – it’s hard to differentiate what is true and what is false about foods we consume. Plus, Wisconsin is awesome and dairy farmers are awesome.

    • Thank you! I agree, fear is a HUGE marketing tool these days. It misleads consumers to purchase a more expensive product. Times are tough and stuff ain’t cheap. I don’t want to pay $7 for milk because of what it says on the label. I want all consumers to know that if they want to but the cheapest gallon of milk or block of cheese, it is just as safe as the more expensive brand or label. Also, Wisconsin and dairy farmers TOTALLY rock. 🙂

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  3. It never ceases to amaze me how people can believe a BOVINE hormone can have any effect on a HUMAN, never mind the fact that hormones are fragile and don’t survive pasteurization, much less digestion.

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  5. Modern Day Farm Chick, I really enjoyed your article!! I have been researching both sides of the rbST debate trying to form my own opinion, and hearing from someone who actually works on a dairy farm is one really cool perspective! I’m just curious, what do you think of rbST being banned in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in the 27 countries of the European Union? I’ve also seen studies that showed that cows given rbST had higher incidences of lameness and mastitis, have you experienced that at all with your herd?

    Please don’t think I’m discrediting what you wrote, I’m just interested in learning more about food production methods and I want to hear more of your opinion!

    • Hello Emily! Glad you enjoyed the article and are researching to form your own opinion. The banning of rbST in other countries seems to stem from an animal welfare standpoint and consumer concern. I find it interesting that the EU bans the technology, however accepts rbst treated products from other countries. Here is an article that addresses this topic, perhaps you have already seen it, http://www.agbioforum.org/v3n23/v3n23a15-brinckman.html

      We do have some incidences of lameness and mastitis once in awhile, but nothing severe. Overall, our lameness and mastitis rate is relatively low and our cows appear happy and healthy. With so many factors that can lead to lameness or mastitis, it is hard to pinpoint rbst as the cause (on our dairy anyway).

      I know many are concerned with the use of rbst from an animal welfare standpoint, but I can confirm that when used properly rbST is no cause for concern. It is just a quick prick of the needle and the cow is on her way. Occasionally, some cows will form small lumps at the injection site, but nothing painful or life-threatening. I think that if cattle are fed a healthy diet, are comfortable and happy, rbST is a great tool to increase milk efficiency.

      Thanks for your input and let me know if there are any other questions. I am no expert, but am happy to share what I know! 🙂

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