DAIRY 

Buying Guide and Production Practices

MILK PRICES FOR CSA MEMBERS AT DROP POINTS

$10/gallon ($14/gallon for A2 MILK)

$5/half​ ($7/half for A2 MILK)

$3/qt ($3.50.qt for A2 MILK)

Cream: $5/pt when available--we are short on milk right now, so not currently offering cream.)

Yogurt $4/qt

Frozen Butter (Seasonal) $7.50/half lb

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MILK PRICES FOR NON-CSA MILK ORDERS AT DROP POINTS

$12/gallon (+$5 jar deposit)

$6/half​ ($7/half for A2 MILK)  (+$3 jar deposit)

$3/qt ($4/qt for A2 MILK)  (+$2 jar deposit)

Cream: NOT AVAILABLE TIL SPRING

Yogurt: $4/qt

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Jar Deposits

The first time you buy milk (or if you ever forget to bring a jar to trade), if you don't provide your own jar you will need to pay the following jar deposits:

Gallon jar: $5                                              Half gallon jar: $3                         Quart or pint jar: $2

We cannot take Shatto jars--they  are too difficult to clean.  We use wide mouth and narrow mouth glass gallon jars with SCREW ON lids--NO LUG LIDS OR PICKLE JARS. Or wide mouth half gallon jars (generally BALL.)


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Cleaning your Jars

It is very important that you return your jars CLEAN and DRY.  Generally, a jar run through the dishwasher is clean enough, as long as you can't see any visible debris on the jar.  If your dishwasher has a dry cycle--use it.  If not, ensure the jar has FULLY air dried before you put the lid on. Otherwise the jar will quickly start to stink--especially during warm weather. 

We have a commercial dishwasher and will run dirty jars through a wash cycle to ensure they are clean, but that costs labor, water, and electricity that we don't include in the normal cost of our milk.  

We will let is slide if you occasionally return a jar that is not ready to be filled with milk again. However, clients who consistently return dirty jars will be charged a $.50/jar cleaning fee. PLEASE DON'T MAKE US RESORT TO THIS.

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First Time Buyer DISCOUNT

As a first time buyer, your first gallon of milk will be $8,  plus jar deposit. Or if you just get a gallon, it will be $4, plus jar deposit.  If you are a new customer, you will be allowed to join the CSA mid-month your first month if we have enough milk.  That will allow you to pay the lower $10/gallon milk prices for the remainder of the month. 

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How do I order?

First you need to complete the online Waiver of Liability Form.  If you want milk every week, place a MONTHLY CSA order.  Or you can place a WEEKLY Non-CSA order through the SHOP. 

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At the Farm Prices

If you pick up your milk directly from the farm, the milk is $9/gallon or $4.50/half gallon.

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ANIMAL HUSBANDRY AND PRODUCTION

Is your farm Certified Humane?

We are not Certified, but we think we are about has humane as it gets.  The basic philosophy from which we raise our animals is to ask ourselves this question:

If this animal had the choice to live on our farm or ANYWHERE else on the planet--free and wild, or on someone else's farm-- would they stay?
We see our animals as beings that need to be nurtured not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. We don't see them as our "slaves" who have to stay because we own them. But rather, we invite them to participate in the creation process on our farm by "filling the measure of their creation"--doing what they do best in a manner that blesses their lives and all other life within the farm system. By contributing their unique gifts and capacities to the farm work, we ALL experience a more abundant life.

Maybe a cow doesn't hunger for a "fulfilled" life like us humans do, but just in case they do, we've provided that opportunity for them! Our cows get to eat a fresh salad bar of green every day, mate with a real live bull, and raise their own babies in a natural, safe, cozy, happy environment with humans that love them. That's a better life than some humans get!

We hope you see that our practices go beyond "humane" and beyond "organic" in our efforts to be good stewards of the land and animals God has blessed us with. 

The centerpiece of our integrated sustainable farm is our herd of 100% grass-fed Jersey cows, who "fill the measure of their creation" in many vital ways.

* These mamas provide us valuable manure to fertilize the pastures, and their winter bedding is composted for the gardens. (We believe the blend of wood chips, manure, and hay results in mineral-rich and microbial-rich soil that produce more nutrient dense and flavorful produce.)

* Dairy cows provides year-round cash flow for our business to create financial sustainability as a farm.

*They produce milk and cream for drinking, cheese, butter, ice cream, sour cream, yogurt, and quark for eating, and supplemental feed for the pigs and chickens.

*But our cows also get the “luxury” not normally afforded dairy cows of also nursing their own calves every day. The steers are raised for milk/ grass-fed beef and the heifers are raised to be future grass-based dairy cows.

As cows that produce both milk and meat, they are considered "Dual-Purpose."


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What breed are your cows?
Our milking herd is made up mostly of purebred Jersey and Jersey-Holstein cross cows right now. We have a little bit of Guernsey, Normande and even some Angus and Brahma genetics in the mix as well.

Jersey cows are great for their high butterfat content and rich tasty milk. But purebred Jerseys have a few drawbacks. They tend to “milk off their backs” and can get really skinny on a 100% grass diet unless they come from a line of cows that has been bred for grass-based genetics. (And there aren't a lot of truly grass-based Jersey genetics out there anymore.) A skinny cow won't breed-back. A cow that won't breed-back will eventually dry up and stop producing milk. Thin cows are also more prone to metabolic disorders such as milk fever and ketosis, which can kill a cow very quickly. So robust grass-based genetics are important to us.

Cross-bred cows tend to have "cross-bred vigor" resulting from the introduction of diverse genetics. We are engaging in some cross-breeding experiments to determine which crosses result in a truly dual purpose cow that can produce a sufficient volume of milk for resale, and wean off a nicely fleshed steer or heifer calf, all while staying in good condition on pasture, barley grass fodder, and fermented non-GMO alfafa--with no grain.  

The last 2 years we have cross bred to a British White bull, which is a dual purpose meat/milk animal from Britain, and to a Square Meater bull, which is a shorter beef animal with strong milk production and strong grass genetics from Australia.  We won't have heifers from those bulls in milk until spring of 2017. We'll let you know how they do!

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What are your milking procedures?

After 3 1/2 years of milking in our garage with a 2 bucket automatic milking system (which followed about 6 months of milking in the pasture with  a portable milking trailer) as of 01/09/2015 we are finally milking in our newly constructed milk parlor.  And since May 2015, we are now milking with a 4 claw pipeline automatic milking system. 

CLEANING THE SYSTEM: Prior to milking, the pipeline is rinsed with a concentrated food grade hydrogen peroxide rinse.  After we milk, the system is rinsed with warm water, followed by a wash with a chlorinated detergent wash with water that is heated to nearly 200 degrees.  This ensures the removal of microbial "bio-film" from the pipeline.  Finally, the system is rinsed with dairy acid wash, that removes the calcium deposit "milk stone" from the lines, and also acts as a final sanitizing   

WASHING THE COW: Prior to milking, each udder is washed with a warm washcloth with a bit of soap and bleach. Then each teat is stripped a couple of squirts and dipped into an iodine teat dip. Each sanitized teat is then wiped clean with a new paper towel.

FILTERING AND COOLING:  During milking, the milk passes through a special filter to ensure the removal of any small pieces of hay or debris that might have made its way into the milk. Then it goes straight into a bulk tank, which stirs and rapidly cools the milk. The milk is stored in the bulk tank until we bottle--generally every Tuesday and Friday.

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I understand you bring the calf into the parlor during milking.  How does that work? What are your calf management practices?
From the moment our calves are born, they are mothered by their own dams.

Calves run with their mother 100% of the time for the first 2-3 days after birth. We let the calf drink plenty of colostrum, then start bringing the cow in for a once a day milking. The cow is usually holding back a decent portion of her milk for the calf i.e. she lets down a little bit of the milk into the milker, but she "hoards" the rest for her baby and refuses to give it up to us humans.

The problem is that a young calf can't drink THAT much milk without getting scours (calf diarrhea) which can rapidly lead to dehydration and death if not addressed. And the mama will get mastitis if she stays full all of the time.

So by the second or third day, we find it necessary to separate the calf each night into a special pasture and shelter area reserved only for calves. We NEVER use calf hutches that keeps each calf locked up by itself, separated from the other calves. Our calves have a lively social life every night while their mamas get to graze in peace without having their udder's head-butted (or "honked" as we like to call it) by a calf every few hours.

We only milk once a day. We are able to eliminate the evening milking because the calf drinks all of the milk throughout the day. The night-time milking on our farm is replaced with the evening ritual called "separating the calves." Not having to milk in the evening gives us some semblance of a life that completely disappears if we try to milk twice a day.

This separation period each night ensures that there will be a decent amount of milk by the next morning milking. And by creating that separation period, it allows us to use the cow's maternal instinct to trigger full let down. On a traditional dairy farm, if the cow refuses to let down for the milk machine, she is usually administered a quick shot of the hormone Oxytocin. We allow the calf to trigger the mama's own NATURAL release of oxytocin for the same effect--no syringe needed.

We hook up the cow to the milker and take the fore-milk that she is willing to "surrender." Once her milk-flow begins to slow, we bring the calf into the parlor to stand right next to its mama in the by-pass stanchion. The cow will usually immediately begin licking the calf, and like a miracle, the milk starts flowing again! The hind milk contains the lion-share of the cream. If we don't bring the calf in, we would end up with a skimpy cream-line, but a really fat calf!

Because a young calf is usually eager to nurse after about 12 hours of separation, we allow our young calves to nurse one quarter of the udder, and we only take the milk from 3 of the quarters. It teaches the calf that the milk parlor is a GREAT place where they get re-united with mama and get a nice drink of milk. Once the calf is actively grazing and we can tell it can wait just fine until mama's udder starts to re-fill again to nurse, we start taking all 4 quarters at milking time (usually after about 1-2 months depending on how much milk we need as well.) The transition period of weaning the calf from getting a quarter in the parlor can sometimes look like a rodeo, as we train the calf with a board under it's mama's belly to stay in the front half of the stanchion and wait patiently for it's turn to nurse after we are all done.

We are constructing a new dairy parlor specifically designed to meet our "calf in the parlor" routine so that milking time will become significantly easier and quicker than it currently is milking in our 2 car garage. But three years of milking this way thus far in a less than ideal parlor has been far from easy. But we believe it is worth it.

I just think that there is nothing more beautiful than watching one of our mamas lick her baby all over, grooming it and loving it, while the calf suckles away, with an occasional head-butt to keep the milk coming. It doesn't make any sense for me to bottle-feed a calf when her mom does a perfectly good job giving her milk straight from the udder. The interaction between mama and calf is also health-promoting for both animals in emotional and physical ways.

In her wonderful book, Keeping a Family Cow, Joann Grohman says:
“I have never known a suckled calf to be ill. I don’t even recall when a calf penned where the cow can lick it and touch noses, getting fresh warm milk in a bottle, has become ill. Milk contains macrophages, leukocytes and an array of other immune factors which are specific to the environment of your own cow and calf. Together with the powerful life supporting nature of milk itself, this is a formula for success.
“Two factors are absent in the life of a separated calf even if you take it warm milk straightaway. One is the happiness factor. As with other babies, the calf needs lots of interaction to thrive. If there is somebody in the family with time to provide this, well and good. But the mother cow showers her calf with enthusiastic attention and teaches it a lot of cow things. The calf develops a huge will to live.
“The cow also generates specific antibodies tailored to the occasion if she is in contact with the calf. There is a feedback mechanism dependent on personal contact which enables the cow to produce antibodies to pathogens in the calf. These appear in her milk within a few hours of contact. This is like getting a personalized flu shot for whatever strain is going around a getting it before you even know you are sick. This effect was demonstrated in research more than fifty years ago but the fact was of no use to the dairy industry where calves must always be separated, so was not widely reported. The same thing occurs in other species.” (Pg 105-106.)

Bottle calves that are shipped off the farm away from their mamas and then fed a powdered formula are notorious for being sick and dying–upwards of a 30% death rate from either “shipping fever” induced scours (diarrhea), pneumonia, or other illnesses. Farmers who raise bottle calves also have to deal with the issue of the calves suckling on each-other’s ears, navels, and teats, which can lead to hernias and blind/non-functioning quarters when the heifer freshens the first time. I've never seen one of our calves who has a mama still try to suckle another calf–maybe another mama, if she’ll let them–but never another calf.

Most dairy calves are NEVER allowed to nurse their mothers, and after receiving one bottle of colostrum, they are then bottle fed a soy-based milk replacer twice a day for only 6 short weeks, and then they are weaned to a corn and soy-based grain ration. Our calves nurse their mother's for 12 hours of every day until they are about 10 months old.
Allowing the calf to nurse eliminates the need to feed grain to the calf.

We go to incredible lengths to follow this "calf gets to nurse half the day" model because we believe it is the best for both the cow, the calf, and the consumer. However it is NOT feasible to milk this way with more than about 20 cows. This necessitates small herds, which I believe are ideal for small, integrated sustainable farms.



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What do you feed your cows?
We go to exceptional lengths to be 100% grass-fed and eliminate any Genetically Modified feeds. Our cow's primary diet is pasture grasses and legumes that they harvest themselves, with some supplementation provided by hydroponically sprouted barley grass fodder and a fermented non-GMO alfalfa product called Chaffhaye.

WHY GRAIN-FREE?: When a cow is fed grain, it changes the pH in the rumen. Different microorganisms in the gut of the cow are responsible for breaking down different foods. Any time there is a large shift in the amount of forage vs grain being consumed by the cows, there is a shift in the number of grass digesters vs grain digesters. Potentially dangerous E coli bacteria do not exist in the guts of 100% grass-fed cows.

GRAZING: We practice “Management Intensive Rotational Grazing” on our farm. This means that we section off our pastures into smaller paddocks with the use of temporary electric fences that are moved once or twice a day.

This practice ensures the cows have access to a new patch of fresh grass every day without trampling or soiling too much grass, which would then be left un-grazed. Creating a smaller space in which the cows graze creates a similar effect as large herds huddling together for protection from outlying predators. This bunching up in a tighter space results in a "mob mentality" which causes the cows to put their heads down and graze faster rather than picking the field over. Where once pursuing predators caused the herd to perpetually move forward toward fresh new pastures, we as the farmers do that by moving the fences forward.

This also keeps the cows from re-grazing their favorite patches over and over before the grass has the chance to mature again, and ignoring other less palatable grasses and weeds. When pastures are continuously grazed, the cows eventually kill off their favorite grasses, while the weeds take over the pasture because that is what was left to go to seed.

Rotational grazing increases the biological activity in the soil, spreads the manure more evenly for pasture fertility, and helps create a diversity of plant and microbial life in the pastures. It also moves the cows away from their manure pats, decreasing the likelihood of contracting parasitic worms.

Moving the cows every day requires an investment in fencing supplies and a daily man-power, but it is healthier for the cows and leads to more nutrient dense milk.

CARBON SEQUESTERING AND REGENERATIVE FARMING: As grass grows, carbon dioxide from the air is converted into carbon within the plant. In general, the length of the grass roots are proportional to the length of the grass blades. When a cow, chicken, or pig grazes the grass, the roots die back in proportion to the length cut off from the grass blade. Those died roots then decompose and add carbon back into the soil, below the surface. And after the grass is digested by the grazing animal, a large volume of carbon is also "deposited" on the surface of the pasture to be pulled into the soil by the efforts of earthworms and other soil life. Grazing animals IMPROVE the air & the soil! (See my blog for more info.)

*ACCESS TO PASTURE: Our cows have access to grass every day during the grazing season (i.e. when grass is growing) and we strive to stock-pile grass for the cows to graze through the winter as much as possible.

*PASTURE QUALITY: Our pastures are not sprayed with chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Our goal is to maintain our pastures according to organic standards, but we do not intend to get certified as organic at this point. Our pastures are constantly being improved.

ANTI-FESCUE RENOVATION: Fescue is the most common grass in Missouri pastures. The vast majority of Fescue is what is called "endophyte infected" meaning, that it has a fungus living INSIDE the plant cells. The symbiotic relationship between the fungus and the plant makes it extremely hardy, but also makes it toxic to animals. (I will write a blog post about this in the the future.) Cows in generally, and especially dairy cows, don’t do well on this grass. Horses can abort on Fescue. We started off with a high percentage of Fescue grass that had been hayed for years. Over the past 3 years, we have increased the amount of clover in all of our fields by "frost seeding" (broadcasting seeds that are then worked into the soil through the early spring freeze and thaw cycles). We are also renovating small sections of pasture each year by feeding winter hay in that particular area to smother the current stand of grass. Then we pen the pigs in that space to root it all up. Later that section is replanted in a more diverse blend of warm and cool season grasses, legumes, forbs and herbs. The goal is to create a "salad bar" of diverse species for the cows to choose from. Each plant interacts with the microbes and roots of the other plants to enrich the soil in different ways and offer different nutrient profiles to the cows in a beautiful symbiotic way. (A blog post will be coming soon about the blend of seeds we are experimenting with.)
*HAY:If we run out of pasture to graze, the cows are offered free-choice access to grass/legume hay from pastures that have not been sprayed with chemicals. During the winter, the cows can freely enter and leave the barn, and the "sacrifice" paddock we are feeding hay in to kill off the Fescue grass in that section. 
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What exactly is "barley grass fodder" that you feed your cows?
BARLEY FODDER: We do not feed our cows grain, but instead, we sprout barleyin our personally designed and built hydroponic fodder system.

Within 7 days, a tray of seeds turns into a 7 inch tall mat of grass and roots, and the whole mat is fed to the cows.

Growing fodder ensures we can feed our cows food that is alive with active enzymes even when we are feeding hay during the winter or need to dilute the affects of endophyte-infected fescue during summer grazing.

Unless a farmer has AMAZING pastures, dairy cows simply can't keep their milk production high and not lose weight and suffer ill health without some kind of high quality supplemental feed. We believe fodder is the best option for grass-fed animals.

Depending on what we have access to, the grain may be organic and shipped from out of state, or may be sustainably grown by a local farmer (our preference when we can get it straight from the farmer.) In order to buy locally, we usually have to buy a FULL YEAR'S worth of grain at a time--although sometimes our friend farmer David is willing to store some for us in his grain bin. That requires a large financial investment in grain and in storage facilities.

It is significantly more labor intensive to produce 100% grass fed milk. It is more expensive to produce 100% grass-fed milk. In general grass-only milk cows produce less milk than grain-fed cows. One farmer in Florida produces 100% grass-fed milk raw on his farm which he sells for $15 per gallon. He also delivers milk for another producer which they call 50/50 milk and that farmer feeds grain. That milk is priced at $8 per gallon. I know there are people that think we are “over-priced” because they can get milk from other farmers for less. But many of those farmers are feeding GMO grains. It is not the same product. Even feeding only dry grass hay and alfalfa in the winter does not produce the same product as ours when we are feeding GREEN, FRESH, LIVING grass to our cows all year round. 
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