I mentioned in an earlier post that we had plans to visit the Windsor Dairy and see about signing up for a cow share to gain access to raw milk. Last Friday, we braved the threat of thunderstorms and trekked up north to Windsor, Colorado for just that purpose. Nolan fell asleep on the drive and didn’t wake up until we got there, so he was groggy and cranky, and not interested in doing anything at first but clinging to his mama. In addition, the whole place was muddy thanks to recent downpours, rendering our stroller useless, and the upshot was that I ended up carrying him for the entire tour and leaving the photography to my dad. I should also note that our tour contained a pack of four women with babies in slings and small children in tow, who monopolized the tour guide to the extent that I could rarely get close enough to hear what he was saying.
Windsor Dairy has been an operating farm in that location since the 1890’s. The current owners, both bovine veterinarians, purchased the property in 2000 and got organic certification two years later. They started offering raw milk in 2005 as soon as Colorado law allowed its transfer to consumers via cow share—meaning that even though raw milk still can’t be sold directly here, you can get it to drink yourself if you are a part-owner of the herd. All of their cows are grass-fed on pasture and hay, with a certain amount of supplementation via corn silage. Windsor Dairy is also the only dairy in the United States, raw or commercial, that tests every single batch of milk for the four major food-borne pathogens.
We started the tour with a visit to the goat herd, comprised mostly of Nubian goats with a few La Manchas thrown in (they are the ones with the light coats and stubby ears). They were very friendly, and the other kids on the tour, both older and younger than Nolan, helped our tour guide feed them shards of Windsor Dairy cheese. I believe the goats are a fairly recent addition to the farm, but they are hoping to add goat’s milk to their list of products before long.
Because the grazing pastures are so large, we weren’t able to see the majority of the herd, just a few ladies who were currently at the dairy itself for milking. Windsor Dairy keeps a variety of breeds, including Jerseys, Guernseys, and Swiss Browns, and they are milked twice a day, giving about 2 gallons of milk. Not every cow gives milk all the time, however; the milk comes along with the calves, naturally, and they try to rotate through the herd to give each cow some down time. The calves don’t pasture with the herd until they are ready to eat grass; all colostrum obtained through the milking equipment is of course reserved for them.
The dairy makes a variety of raw milk cheeses, which we have not yet had a chance to sample, although we got to see the vat where the curds are separated from the whey, the young cheese wheels soaking in a brine solution, and the temperature-controlled locker (er, cellar…cave…humidor? I’m not up on my cheese-making terminology!) where they age their cheeses.
At the end of the tour, we sampled the milk again; Nolan gulped down his little cupful, partly because we were wearing heavy coats and the cheese room had been quite warm. My dad is still not completely convinced that raw milk is safe to drink, having been told so explicitly by the federal government all his life, but to his credit, he did not object to our signing up for two gallons per week, which we will pick up at the Denver Urban Homesteading farmer’s market every Saturday in glass half-gallon jars.
Having read about the nutritional benefits of raw milk for nearly a year now, I am very excited to see what effect it will have, if any, on my son’s developmental delays. He is a big fan of milk, and although a gluten-free/casein-free diet is immediately suggested to everyone with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, it is my strong suspicion that raw dairy will have a more positive impact on him than no dairy at all. We won’t pick up our first gallons until this weekend, but I think great improvements are in the offing!
Update 5/31/11: Just a few photos of our raw milk. It comes in half-gallon mason jars that we wash and return at each pick-up.
Definitely whole and non-homogenized! And just look at the thickness of that spring cream! 🙂
We haven’t gotten the hang of pouring straight out of the jars, particularly when they are full, but this little juice pitcher is just the right size for a half-gallon, and has a plunger that lets us gently stir in the cream without repeatedly shaking up the milk.
Update 6/2/11: I made my first batch of raw milk yogurt yesterday and it came out just fine. All I did was warm the milk from one jar to about 115F on the stove-top (medium-low heat for less than 15 minutes, I would say) and pour it into the pre-heated crockpot. Then I stirred in a culture of about 1/4 C from my last batch of yogurt, wrapped up the unplugged crockpot in a blanket, and left it in the closed laundry room overnight (which was nice and warm thanks to a recently washed load of clothes). The next morning it was so tangy and thick that draining only produced a cup or less of whey.