In regards to dairy production, a farmstead is defined as an operation that both produces the milk and makes the products (bottled milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) on the same land. This differs from the more modern approach of ever-larger dairies producing greater quantities of milk to be shipped off to centralized creameries for processing. Farmstead dairy operations, by their very nature, are usually much smaller family operations selling locally and with an eye towards sustainability.
Our milking herd is a mix of Holstein, Brown Swiss, and Jersey – some purebreds and some crossbreeds. We select for genetics that favor quality over quantity – richer milk with higher fat and protein.
Although our cows spend a lot of time on our seasonal pastures, the bulk of our cows’ diet is a mix of alfalfa hay and locally grown fresh salad greens from the Salinas Valley. Yes, it’s true… fresh salad greens! We are blessed with access to fresh salad greens, considering we are located in the Salad Bowl of America! The milking cows are also fed some non-corn/non-soy grain while they are being individually milked. We are actively renovating our existing irrigation system to improve pasture production throughout the year so that the cows always have a nutritious, palatable, and varied diet, allowing them to produce the most flavorful and nutritious milk possible. Our pastures have never been sprayed with any chemical fertilizers or pesticides/herbicides. We practice rotational grazing, proper pasture recovery, and amend the soils with composted dairy mulch.
No, we are not certified organic; however, it is important to note that we do not use hormones, steroids, or corn- or soy-based feed. Also, our pastures have never been sprayed with any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Our animals are raised with respect and treated with dignity. An animal on rare occasions can get sick, at which time we feel it is our responsibility to treat them with approved antibiotics, during which time they and their milk are kept separate from the regular milk supply, so that none of our milk contains antibiotics. In order to maintain an organic certification, we would be required to remove that cow, which might otherwise live for another decade on our small family farm, rather than simply treat that animal for a week with approved antibiotics. We, as 3rd generation dairymen, could not with good conscience send off a good animal for the sake of keeping a certification. We are proud of the viability of our milking herd and the health of our animals, which typically live 50% longer than the average CA dairy cow.
Raw milk is unpasteurized milk, which means that it has never been heated to high temperatures for pasteurization purposes. We are one of only a few dairies licensed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to sell bottled raw milk in CA. Our milk is tested regularly and our creamery inspected often by the CDFA and both must consistently meet the rigorous quality standards set forth. To meet these standards we focus on cow cleanliness and health, strict sanitation procedures during milking, quick cooling of the milk, strict sanitation procedures during bottling and timely delivery. We maintain a very small herd of healthy milk cows that we test yearly to be both bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis (TB) free.
Raw Milk is also non-homogenized, which allows for the milkfat to rise naturally to the top of the milk and form a distinct cream layer. The cream layer can be skimmed for other uses or gently shaken back into the milk.
- Important Note: Nothing is without risk, and of course that extends to raw foods. Although we ourselves have been raised on Raw Milk and feel strongly about its superior quality, the State of California does require us to highlight the potential risks. Our bottles all contain the following:
- GOVERNMENT WARNINGS: RAW (UNPASTEURIZED) MILK AND RAW MILK DAIRY PRODUCTS MAY CONTAIN DISEASE CAUSING MICROORGANISMS. PERSONS AT HIGHEST RISK OF DISEASE FROM THESE ORGANISMS INCLUDE NEWBORNS AND INFANTS; THE ELDERLY; PREGNANT WOMEN; THOSE TAKING CORTICOSTEROIDS, ANTIBIOTICS OR ANTACIDS; AND THOSE HAVING CHRONIC ILLNESSES OR OTHER CONDITIONS THAT WEAKEN THEIR IMMUNITY.
Yes. In fact, when I start culturing the milk as part of the cheesemaking process, my dad is still milking and the warm milk from those cows is gently flowing into the cheese vat…you can’t get any fresher than that! Using fresh raw milk, still warm from the cow is a very traditional practice that is very rare nowadays and only possible on a Farmstead operation. Legally, all raw milk cheeses have to be aged a minimum of 60 days, whereas most of our raw milk cheeses are aged well beyond the minimum requirement. On occasion I will make some fresh cheeses which are meant to be consumed quickly and the milk for those cheeses legally need to be pasteurized. If/when I pasteurize milk for fresh cheeses, the milk is heated slowly and gently using the vat pasteurization technique.
Technically there is no such thing as raw yogurt. Although it is true that my vat is receiving fresh raw milk, still warm from the cow as it flows gently from the milking parlor next door while my dad is milking – part of the yogurt making process is to additionally heat that milk as a strategy to change the structure of the whey proteins, which later aids in that wonderful yogurt texture. After the initial heat treatment, the milk temperature is reduced, the milk cultured, and incubated overnight until the proper pH and texture is achieved. My ability to start the process with fresh raw milk, still warm from the cow, that has never been cooled, stored, and then re-heated not only contributes to the quality of the yogurt – but also saves energy!
A Swiss style yogurt is a stirred yogurt, originally conceived as a strategy to stir in fruit and/or sweet flavors. I, however, make a very traditional all-natural yogurt. There are no sugars, no stabilizers, no thickeners or whey protein concentrates added. The only ingredients are unhomogenized whole milk and 4 different strains of lactic acid bacteria… that’s it! Most yogurts are cultured and incubated at 110-115 F and take 4-6 hours to “set”. I use a much lower temperature (well below 100 F) and a longer incubation time of 12+ hours. This results in a more stable yogurt that doesn’t require the thickeners and with a texture that is much more delicate and supple. The yogurt is made fresh weekly in the vat, incubated overnight, and when the pH and texture is just right the yogurt is stirred and bottled using a gravity filler and then cooled quickly. The above-mentioned techniques also help to favor the high numbers of probiotic bacterial strains – namely the L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis species.
Mostly A2. We have not tested individual cows; however, since 2013 we have only used bulls (for breeding purposes) that have the A2/A2 genotype. The bulls, therefore, only pass their A2 genetics on to their daughters – which at about 2 years of age will be our next freshman class of milking cows. Our milking herd is therefore predominantly A2/A2, if not already producing 100% A2 milk.
Almost never, and less and less every year. Generally speaking, dairy cows grow horns and the young animals are de-budded once to keep the horns from growing. This is standard practice as a safety precaution for both the animals and the people that work amongst them. Over the last few years we have been able to find bulls (for breeding purposes) that are naturally polled, which means they do not grow horns. We have been able to trend towards a predominantly polled herd of cattle by selecting for breeding bulls that carry this trait. The result is a diminishing need to de-bud young animals and eventually avoiding that procedure altogether. In regards to branding; we no longer find a need to engage in this practice.
No, not at the moment; however, these are two things we are diligently working towards. We are very proud of our family farmstead operation and would love to showcase our innovative approach to dairy production, but first we must build the infrastructure that would allow for this – parking, bathrooms, storefront, safety measures, etc. Stay tuned, and thanks for the interest!