Sunday, October 28, 2007

Finding a New Creamery

We've been looking for a local creamery, but unfortunately had heard some negative reviews about the one nearest to us. So we went looking in a neighboring state, being only a few miles from the border. When we got there, however, and I began poking around and asking questions, since it was only a store-front and bottling plant, I found out that the claims of local on the website no longer held true, as they'd recently lost their two biggest local contracts to Organic Valley and are now trucking all their milk in from Lancaster, PA. That tidbit along with the fact that we didn't actually know who the farmers were never mind getting to see the farms, we decided to investigate our local dairy for ourselves.

So we headed down to South Mountain Creamery, which is open to the public every day. It was too dark to get photos of the machine milking, but the milking parlor was really interesting. While I'd known the cows would be machine milked, the kids had never seen anything like it and had just assumed the cows would be milked by hand like they'd seen me doing with our goat, Latte. They were a bit put out about that and even a bit disgusted—and really, it's kinda hard not to be. Even a small dairy like this is so big that it requires a certain level of mechanization.


Here's a photo of the calf barn, yet another down side to industrialized dairy. While the kids had a lot of fun feeding the calves, I had a really hard time with the idea that the babies are taken away from their mamas and confined to these, oh, maybe 4' x 6' stalls for the early part of their lives. Even many home dairies opt to separate mama from baby and bottle raise the babies exclusively, a practice that didn't sit well with me. At home, we opted to separate mama and baby overnight and take the first morning milk for ourselves, allowing them to range together the rest of the day with on-demand nursing. Latte's kid, Dragon, is still trying to nurse at five months, though she's beginning to wean him naturally. So, until we can get our own Jersey for home milking, small-scale, local industrial milk is the lesser of two evils. There are definite down-sides to this creamery, but I have a hard time imagining that an industrial dairy somewhere else, not open for public inspection, is going to be any cleaner, any more humane, any more in line with our values of sustainability. So, for now, this is our local dairy.

9 comments:

Christy said...

I really respect you for going to check out the dairy in person. I'll admit I haven't done that with milk. I have visited the farm where we get our meat and seen the animals. I wish their was a better alternative for milk.

MommyMommy said...

We use our local dairy, and while I am happy with it, I can't wait till our house sells so I can buy my own cow...

We have decided on a Dexter, not a jersey. Maybe you should check into a few more breeds, you might change your mind (like more free grazing, less "feeding" and dual purpose meat.\).

Wendy said...

It is a balance, isn't it? There always seems to be a trade off - although for me, even industrialized local is better than trucked in from somewhere I can never visit ;). Our "local" dairy is small scale, like the one you show, but is probably industrial and I'm positive it's also mechanized. They have a contract with a local grocery store, and we get the milk there. The barn is no longer open to the public because of the foot and mouth disease scare a few years ago, but I've met the owner, and it's still very much a family affair. So, for now, it's where we get milk.

Danielle said...

Mommymommy, did you leave a comment about Dexters earlier on my blog? Or maybe it was someone posting about Highland cattle? They are a couple of very attractive breeds, no doubt. I've been interested in the Jerseys because of the high butterfat and cheese-making potential, but I'm very willing at this point to consider other breeds. Thank you for suggesting other options, as I'm definitely keeping my options open.

Christy and Wendy, thanks for the comments—it is hard to weigh the pros and cons. None of these are easy answers, for sure. Kinda like parenting.

karl said...

we left our first calf on half-time. never again. nimue is such a great mama that she'd never let-down for tabitha. the battle was too fierce and cream never graced our table until the calf was removed permanently. the second calf and mama could lick each other and calf drank mamas milk. fed by us she became a real pet and will be easier to train later if needed.

Angie said...

Hi Danielle! Thanks for the comment on my blog. I just read an article about that Joel Salatin book and plan to get it too - sounds like I'll be able to relate! As far as your post about local dairies, we are fortunate that we have an organic dairy farm in the next town that bottles their own milk and delivers it to your house like the olden day Milkman! We LOVE it! Wouldn't it be great if we could find a way to have all our food/drink purchased locally AND delivered to our door?! Life would be good or better, I should say. Have a great night and again, thanks for stopping by.

julia said...

I've just recently found your blog~ and I'm LOVING it! Couldn't help but give you a little "tagging" on my blog.(You Make Me Smile Award) Please don't feel obligated to "play"--only if you care to. (I'm not real good about getting around to tags--so believe me, I would understand!)

Looking forward to sitting down with my cup of coffee and catching up on your older posts...

P.S. My heart hurt when I read about momma-barn-kitty. I am so happy to hear how much you all love her babies though!

Pichinde said...

I was just researching about Dexter cattle and came across this that might help with you wanting to leave the calf on. We didn't have any problems with our goats having the babies on during the day, but it's always good to have options if it does end up being a problem.

"Once the calf starts to take too large a share, usually when about a month old, I shut the calf away from its mother by night, letting it run with her during the day. In the morning, I put the calf to cow, let it suck one quarter out, grab mum and milk her promptly, while the ‘let down’ mechanism is still functioning. Other-wise she may ‘save it for the calf.’ This is a hormonal action, and is not something the cow has conscious control over. In the absence of a calf, ‘let down’ can be encouraged by other pleasurable sensations, such as feeding corn, or massaging the udder."

http://www.purebreddextercattle.org/Articles/Milking.htm

Danielle said...

Thanks to all for the comments and the information! And thank you Julia for the award—what a wonderful surprise!