Where Does Your Milk Come From?

Last week I had the fabulous opportunity to visit Mountain Valley Farm in beautiful Ellijay, GA. The picture above shows my colleague’s young son with Frank Wright whose family founded this farm in 1840 and he brought dairy cows here 40 years ago. First and foremost, this farm is beautiful. If you have the opportunity to go visit, it is worth the drive to Ellijay. And they have a Farm store open to the public on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays with free range eggs, grass fed beef that is locally butchered, free range pork, raw milk (for pets) and more. They use no hormones, antibiotics (it is illegal to use antibiotics in the food supply), pesticides or commercial fertilizers. But what caught my eye the most is how much these farmers love the animals.  All animals are raised on pasture and treated humanely. They are taken care of the way you’d care for your very own pet. And farming is an operation like no other – especially dairy farming since dairy is the most regulated food in the country, everything is done on schedule, equipment properly sanitized, feed calculated and mixed and the milk held in a holding tank at 36 degrees F until it is picked up (and this tank is washed by a computer system after every single batch it holds).

A few more facts about the milk from your local dairy farm (Mountain Valley):

  • The sole responsibility of a dairy farmer is to raise healthy animals who produce good milk
  • Prior to being picked up, pasteurized and processed, the milk is checked. If there is anything detectible (bacteria etc.) in the milk, the farmer must pay for it and discard it.
  • Cows are milked from 11 am – 11pm (7-8 minutes per cow)
  • Each cow produces about 20,000 lbs of milk per year for 5-6 years
  • The colostrum (in the first few milkings after the baby is born) is vital for the newborn Heifer
  • Wright does not use hormones but dairy farms that do cannot sell their milk if the hormones are above a detectable level
  • Feeding these animals is a science (see sheet below) with exact amounts of specific feed mixed together to promote optimal health (gosh if humans ate this way we’d all be perfectly healthy!)

The numbers above are in lbs per day for just 230 cows (this farm has over 300 cows!)
Me petting the newborn twins:

Petting area, and this one loves attention and I enjoyed giving it to him:

Chickens so cute I had them in the palm of my hand:

Milk production is the most regulated food industry in America. And, I’m thrilled that local dairy farmers supply some of our milk. Farmers like Frank and Suzy Wright and their staff handle the animals with love and care and farm because they are passionate about it. And because of this, you and I get the chance to consume a nutrient-packed, quality beverage!

4 thoughts on “Where Does Your Milk Come From?”

  1. Thank you for reading! So much science – how neat to find out they have a dietitian who works with them (she is now in animal nutrition) to ensure the cows are getting all of the nutrients they need! And it sure is eye-opening. I look forward to going back some day (and visiting the local orchards up there!).

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