Montana Department of Livestock

Here to serve the people of Montana and its livestock industry.

Milk & Egg Bureau

Contact Information

Department of Livestock
Milk & Egg Bureau
PO Box 202001
Helena, Montana 59620-2001
(406) 444-9761
Email

Helena Office Hours:

Monday - Thursday
8 a.m. - 2 p.m.
 

Milk & Egg Inspection Frequently Asked Questions

Question:   I am interested in starting a dairy in Montana. What procedures do I need to follow and who do I contact?
Answer:  

The best resource for your start into dairying is to contact the State Sanitarian for your area, found here: Sanitarian District Map.  In addition, please see the documents below for guidance.  Some of the requirements you will need to meet before receiving a dairy license are:

  • Submission of detailed construction plans
  • Coliform testing of your water supply
  • Submission of an equipment list, all of which must adhere to 3-A standards
  • Tuberculosis testing of your milking herd

Your Sanitarian will be available to help you through the process and ensure all requirements are met prior to licensing.

Potential Dairy Producers memo

PMO Selection for Dairy Producers

Question: I am interested in selling eggs in Montana. What procedures do I need to follow and who do I contact?
Answer:

If you are simply selling excess eggs from your backyard flock to friends and neighbors, directly from your farm or home -- good news - no license is needed!  If, however, you want to sell your eggs where they will be resold at retail (i.e. a grocery store, cafe, etc.) or if you are selling more than 25 cases (30 dozen/case) a month, then you need to get an egg grading license.  All the information you need to obtain your license is found in the documents below, including the equipment you will need.  When you are ready to be tested to get your license, contact the State Sanitarian for your area, who can be found here: Sanitarian District Map

As always, your Sanitarian will be available to help you through the process and ensure all requirements are met prior to licensing.

General Egg Information -- Start Here

Official Egg Grading Manual

Egg Handling (ATTRA)

Montana Code

New Service Bulletin (Clorox)

Salmonella

Raw milk and Montana Local Food Choice Act information

Question: What is raw milk?
Answer: Raw milk is another name for unpasteurized milk.
Unpasteurized milk has not been subjected to a heating process which kills pathogens and extends a product’s shelf life.
Question: Is raw milk legal in Montana? 
Answer:

Senate Bill 199, otherwise referred to as the Montana Local Food Choice Act (MLFCA), that was passed by the 2021 legislature allows for a “small dairy” to sell raw milk, cream, or homemade products to an “informed end consumer”.  

Question: What is a “small dairy”?
Answer: A “small dairy” is defined in MCA 81-21-101(6) as “a place where no more than 5 lactating cows, 10 lactating goats, or 10 lactating sheep are kept for producing milk”. 
Question: Who is an informed end consumer?
Answer: An “informed end consumer” is defined in the MLFCA Section 2 (4) as “a person who is the last person to purchase a product, does not resell the product, and has been informed that the product is not licensed, permitted, certified, packaged, labeled, or inspected per any official regulations”. 

 

Question: How do I sell raw milk in Montana?
Answer:

If you have a “small dairy” as defined above, visit our FAQs for raw milk producers to find out more information and read the text of SB199 here.

Question: Is raw milk healthy for me?
Answer:

Claims that raw milk is a healthier alternative to pasteurized milk are not true.  In fact, unpasteurized milk has caused numerous foodborne illness outbreaks.  Unpasteurized milk has been documented to contain numerous disease-causing organisms such as Listeria, E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Cryptosporidium. Children, the elderly, and individuals with a compromised immune system are most at risk. Ask your family healthcare provider for more information.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and prevention offers the following link with raw milk information. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-questions-and-answers.html 

Question: Do I need to be licensed to sell raw milk, cream, or raw milk products?
Answer:

No.  The MLFCA does not require a license for a “small dairy” to sell raw milk.  There are, however, testing requirements for both your milking animals and the milk itself as noted below.

Question: What animal tests are required for my milking herd/flock?
Answer:

Per section 3 (8) of the MLFCA, every lactating cow, lactating goat, or lactating sheep that is part of the small dairy shall be tested every year for brucellosis and the records maintained for two (2) years.

Question: Who will test my milking animals for brucellosis?
Answer:

Contact your herd/flock veterinarian to schedule an official brucellosis test.

Question: What quality tests are required for my raw milk?
Answer:

Per section 3 (8) of the MLFCA, tests for standard plate count, coliform count, and somatic cell count shall be conducted every six (6) months and the records maintained for two (2) years.

Question: Where do I send my milk sample to be tested for quality?
Answer:

The Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Milk Lab (MVDL), per the Board of Livestock, is not accepting raw milk samples from producers selling raw milk at this time; however, samples from private parties wishing to test their milk for their own personal consumption will continue to be accepted.  The department may not endorse or recommend private third-party laboratories, but an internet search will provide several independent certified labs.  

Question: How do I collect a milk sample for bacterial and quality testing?
Answer:

Your herd/flock veterinarian may be a resource for best collection practices or, the lab you choose to test your samples may have recommendations for sampling and shipping.  There are also good sample collection videos available on YouTube.  Be sure to check with your chosen lab regarding freezing your milk samples.

Question: Are there other tests recommended?
Answer:

Yes!  Though not required by the MLFCA, the department highly recommends all milking animals be tested for tuberculosis (TB).  TB is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is easily transmissible between animals and humans, and raw milk can be a source of TB infection in humans. 

In addition, we would encourage raw milk producers to sample their milk and cream more frequently than the minimum required six (6) months.  Again, this is not required in the MLFCA, but is a good management practice.

Question: To whom can I sell my raw milk, cream, or homemade food products?
Answer:

A “small dairy” may only sell their products to an “informed end consumer” which is defined in the MLFCA Section 2 (4) as “a person who is the last person to purchase a product, does not resell the product, and has been informed that the product is not licensed, permitted, certified, packaged, labeled, or inspected per any official regulations”.

Question: Can I sell raw milk, cream, or homemade food products at a Farmer’s Market?
Answer:

The MLFCA allows for sales at a “traditional community social event” (Section 2 (8)) which includes farmer’s markets.  However, many markets have their own boards who approve vendors.  Contact your local market to verify their rules and regulations.

Question: May I sell to my local cafe, restaurant, coffee kiosk, etc.?
Answer:

No. A café, restaurant, coffee kiosk, etc. is considered a retail food establishment. Any sales by the dairy producer or their designated agent must be to the informed end consumer.

Question: May I have a delivery route?
Answer:

Yes. The small dairy owner or a designated agent may have a delivery route. However, the delivery must be to an “informed end consumer”. The products delivered must be only for home consumption or at a traditional community social event and must occur only in Montana.  NOTE: Section 3 (6) of MLFCA specifies a producer may not donate milk to a traditional community social event. 

Question: Are there requirements for labeling my raw milk or raw milk products?
Answer:

No. There are no labeling requirements on milk or cream sold as homemade food or a homemade food product. 

Question: Will the Department of Livestock inspect my dairy or processing area?
Answer:

No.  The MLFCA amended 81-22-304 (3) MCA to exclude “small dairies” from the department’s right of entry into dairies or plants for inspection.  This does not, however, eliminate the department’s right to visit a premise in the event of an animal disease outbreak that warrants investigations into animal health, herd/flock or individual animal movements, or quarantines.

Question: Do I need an LLC?
Answer:

No. The MLFCA does not require a small dairy to be an LLC.  Contact your accountant or attorney for further advice.

Question: Can I buy raw milk or cream and sell products I’ve made?
Answer:

No. Raw milk, cream, and homemade products are required to be sold only to an “informed end consumer”, and therefore, may not be resold in any form.

Question: What if I have a larger operation or want to expand to a licensed dairy?
Answer:

We are here to help!  Getting a new business off the ground can be a daunting task, but our staff is ready to help guide you through the process whether your dream is to sell farm fresh, pasteurized milk or create artisan cheeses or other dairy products.

Visit https://liv.mt.gov/Meat-Milk-Inspection/Milk-and-Egg-Bureau/FAQ, then call us at 406-444-9761, or email milkegg@mt.gov to get started!

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