Pictured: Ginger, a Norwegian Red Jersery cross, is pictured with her daughter, Georgia, born in 2019, with Katy and Alex between them.
What is Raw Milk?
Raw Milk is milk sourced from an animal with the intent of direct human consumption without pasteurization. Pasteurization is the process of heating the milk to a certain temperature to ensure all potentially harmful bacteria or pathogens have been killed.
A logical question then to ask would be, "Why not pasteurize if it prevents bacteria and other harmful things?"
Because while pasteurization does kill harmful bacteria and pathogens, it also kills potentially beneficial bacteria, probiotics, and enzymes, and is easier for the body to absorb and digest. Some studies have even show evidence of increased resistance to allergies, asthma, respiratory infections, otitis, and eczema. You can see peer reviewed studies of these findings here. For us, drinking Ginger's milk meant lower seasonal allergies like itchy eyes, sore throat in the morning, and congestion.
Because Raw Milk is not pasteurized, extra care has been put into the collection, packaging, and processing of this milk to ensure its cleanliness and health status. Additionally, most dairies will conduct testing to monitor the animals health and ensure it is producing healthy milk. When Ginger first calves, we collect milk to send to the U of MN to conduct testing on bacteria count. While we've never had an issue before, we have plans in place is there was a concerning bacteria count to address the issue. This happens before we sell any of the milk to ensure everyone who drinks it is receiving a high quality product.
How it Works
Once the calf is born, Mama and baby will be given time and space to get acquainted with each other. Just like with any newborn, figuring out nursing can be complicated. It's our first priority that Mama and baby are happy and healthy. Once the calf has been able to nurse, we will take samples from Mama to send off to the U of M Laboratory of Udder Health. These tests will evaluate bacteria and coliform count to ensure that the milk is safe for human consumption. Once the results come back, we will follow any given veterinarian advice to address concerns. If there are no concerns, then we will start milking!
To keep the milk clean in the milking process, we follow a lengthy process. First we start by using clean rags to wipe any debris from the udder such as hay, grass, or dirt. Then we use a cleaning solution to clean the teats, this solution is a mild soap mixed with lavender essential oils. Once the udder and teats are clean, milking can begin! We milk both by hand and using a milking machine. The milking machine is sterilized after each cleaning and the vacuum that powers it is cleaned once a month. When we milk by hand, we wash our hands in the same cleaning solution used for the teats and milk directly into a stainless steel bucket. This bucket is sterilized after each use. Once milk is done, we put udder lotion onto the teat to prevent chapping and send Mama and baby on their way! Milk is the poured through filters into 1/2 gal mason jars and immediately placed in the cooler.
Mama and Baby
To be good stewards to our animals, we want to allow them to live however they would choose. This means that Mama and baby are kept together at all times and we calf share as we milk. Baby is able to nurse whenever they want, and Mama and baby are able to maintain their relationship with each other throughout their lives. By maintaining this relationship, we believe that Ginger and her calf are happier. And happy cows mean better milk.
Ginger has 4 raised calves in her life. While nursing, she also providing almost 6 gallons a day of milk for us! This milk helps feed us, our chickens, dogs, and cats, and you! We are so thankful for all the she gives to us. She's as good of a Mama Moo as it gets!