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Micro Dairies Crucial to Local Food Renaissance

If dairy farming is to remain part of Vermont’s agricultural future it must adjust to changing market realities and practice sustainable environmental management. Micro dairy farming offers one viable solution to producing farm fresh milk for local markets. Milk sold directly from the farm can limit production to match demand while, at the same time, allow micro dairy farmers to capture the full value of their milk. 

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An average micro dairy farm of four pasture-grazing and relaxed cows can easily produce 20 gallons of milk a day — enough to supply 60 average families (or 180 people within a typical Vermont neighborhood community). One thousand micro dairy farms throughout the Vermont landscape could each produce 6,000 gallons of local milk per year for the communities where the cows actually live. Farmers selling milk directly from their farms at $7 per gallon would generate $42 million in gross sales for the state.

Approximately half of this revenue would go toward production costs, while the other half could make an estimated $20,000 annual income. Managing a four-cow micro dairy farm does not provide a full time income; however, it is also not a full time job. The amount of time required averages 16 hours per week, which creates the opportunity for a micro dairy farmer to explore other products that complement farmstead success —  such as produce, meat, poultry, composting, cheese production, and so forth. 

In regards to Vermont’s need to protect the environment, micro dairy farming does not involve significant levels of noise, pollution, or manure run-off. In addition, cows that are grass-fed, pasture-raised, and stress-free, have longer, more productive lives. The average life span of a commercial dairy cow is 4.5 years, with only 2.5 productive years. A humanely cared for cow on a micro dairy farm with proper access to sunlight, fresh air, and real grass that is not being stressed for maximum milk production can live and produce milk up to three times longer than a commercial cow.

Micro dairy farming is not the only solution in Vermont’s dairy industry future, but it is one that should not be ignored. If commercial dairy farmers who ship milk to wholesale markets are being paid approximately $1.67 per gallon of milk (compared with the suggested $7) and production costs can routinely run $1.90 per gallon, commercial dairy farmers can and do lose $.23 or more per gallon, which is just bad for business! If, however, a micro dairy farmer can sell milk at $7, turning a profit of $3.60 per gallon as a part time job, the time is afforded to explore diversification on the farm or other means of developing income, such as running a CSA. 

Raw milk sales are legal in Vermont, and micro dairy farmers should have the option to offer their customers the choice of raw and on-the-farm pasteurized milk. This would, without question, expand the potential market for farm fresh milk and increase the role of micro dairy farming in the Vermont agriculture renaissance. Rooted in the growing concern of where and how food is produced, the strengths in the buy-local movement, our strong farmers markets, and farm-to-plate initiatives are programs and organizations such as Sterling College’s Sustainable Agricultural Program, Hardwick’s Center for an Agricultural Economy, Rural Vermont, and the Vermont Fresh Network.

Since March of 2008, the Bob-White System of low-impact pasteurization (BWS LIP) has been in use at the company’s farmstead dairy research facility. It will soon be available at the Bob-White System’s store, located on the town green in South Royalton. The pasteurizer gently pumps cold milk through its heat exchanger at a gallon per minute, where it is heated to 163 degrees and held at that temperature for 20 seconds. The milk is then rapidly cooled back down as it flows into a small bulk tank, where it is further cooled and stored.

The system DOES technically meet the requirements for true pasteurization, but the milk is not homogenized, separated or standardized, which safeguards more of the milk’s nutritional value and cream content, as well as its farm fresh flavor.

Such a system does an excellent job of eliminating harmful bacteria in raw milk, regardless of the bacteria levels, and has absolutely no impact on the milk’s flavor. In addition, the texture of the cream and the ability to utilize the milk for yogurt, butter and other dairy products is unaltered. 

In June of 2010, we sent samples of our milk, both raw and pasteurized (from the same batch), to the highly accredited food lab ABC Research Corp. in Gainesville, Florida for full nutritional analysis.  The lab tested each sample for over 50 individual nutrients.  The only statistically relevant nutrient changes in our pasteurized sample (we actually saw slight

increases in vitamins D and C) were lactic acid organisms and vitamin B-12. Lactic acid organisms help with human digestion. Pasteurization did cause a loss of this nutrient in our samples but it was not eliminated. The loss of vitamin B-12 was approximately 50 percent, but it still can supply 40 percent of a person’s daily recommended allowance.  

It is time for milk to fully join the local-food renaissance and we think Bob-White Systems – the inventors and manufacturers of small-scale pasteurizers for farm-direct milk pasteurization and affordable micro dairy equipment – have an answer for helping achieve that. We are working around the clock to try to bring on-the-farm pasteurization solutions to market. Let’s keep Vermont’s working landscape working!

© Food Safety News
  • OK, couple of things about this ‘article’…
    A) There ain’t a whole heck of a lot of grazing up in Vermont right now. Hasn’t been for a few months, now. Plenty of skiing, though. This weather pattern repeats itself in a predictable annual cycle in the Green Mountain State.
    B) The usual notion of a “part-time” job is that it is flexible and only takes up part of your time. Caring for livestock requires attention to detail several times each day of each week of each month of each year. Yeah, you may find time to watch your favorite soap operas most every day, but you’re not getting away for a weekend, much less for a vacation or cruise. I suppose that’s OK, though, ’cause you’ll only have about $20,000 to live on for the year – not much of a budget for leisure activities.
    C) The author sells these “BobWhite” pasteurizers and clearly has a knack for calculating optimistic business projections. Let’s finish up the math on her little industry plan:
    These pasteurizers she sells look like they might go for around $10,000 to $40,000 each; let’s use $15,000 in our math exercise…
    Retailers and salespeople usually figure a 20% markup (profit, commission, etc.), so let’s assume Rachel’s looking at a 15% commission on sales of pasteurizer units and she has projected selling 1000 units to hobby farmers in Vermont, alone.
    $15,000 X 15% = $2250 commission per unit, times 1000 units = $2,250,000 in commissions rolling in…that’s 2.25 million bucks!
    But, whadda ya wanna bet Racheal had that all figured out ahead of us?
    Blatant advertising, this ‘article’. Not cool.

  • Alan

    It’s nice to see Marler Clark show some interest in economic and social justice to dairy farmers rather than just slamming raw milk. Maybe this scenario doesn’t fit everyone but at least their showing concern for the producer’s well being. I give the article a thumbs up.

  • Once again, Food Safety News has failed to enforce its own comment policy (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/02/publishers-platform-cant-we-all-just-get-along/) by permitting “Doc Mudd” to continue being a jerk with a personal attack on Rachel Carter.
    Let’s quickly go through “Doc Mudd’s” claptrap quickly point by point:
    Point A – VT has long had a significant dairy industry and the State of VT is currently “putting its money where its mouth is” and financially supporting efforts to retain its dairies in very difficult market for dairy products. The internationally famous Cabot Cheese Co-op began in and continues to be headquartered in VT. It has been in continuous operation since 1919. Obviously, dairies have been important to VT for a long time and “Doc Mudd” has blown a lot of smoke.
    Point B – “Doc Mudd” is correct that micro dairies are NOT like most part-time jobs. However, $20,000 is almost 50% greater than the average on-farm income according to the USDA. In addition, all farming has a 24/7 demand; so, any farmer is used to juggling a variety of chores. This time, “Doc Mudd’s” smoke has the arrogance and elitism shown by many urbanites.
    Point C – This is clearly claptrap (see definition #1 at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/claptrap). It is entirely based upon assumptions made by “Doc Mudd” for his/her/its purposes. “Doc Mudd’s” false premise is inflated via false projections.
    Ms. Carter’s author’s bio here on Food Safety News (simply click on her name above) clearly states her affiliation with Bob-White Systems. I called Bob-White Systems and Ms. Carter does NOT sell its equipment. Rather, by following and reading the links provided (http://vermontvibesblog.com/ & http://rachelcarterpr.com/), it is clear that Ms. Carter is a published author and public relations professional.
    This is the second time I have pointed out an egregious violation of Food Safety News’ comment policy by “Doc Mudd.” By FSN’s own definition, “Doc Mudd” is a troll; yet FSN does NOT enforce its own policy. Why? What good is a comment policy that is neither advertised nor enforced?
    To list comments like “Doc Mudd’s” under the heading “Discuss” is a travesty.

  • Thanks for contributing opinions to the opinion piece I wrote.

  • Once again, Food Safety News has failed to enforce its own comment policy (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/02/publishers-platform-cant-we-all-just-get-along/) by permitting “Doc Mudd” to continue being a jerk with a personal attack on Rachel Carter.
    Let’s quickly go through “Doc Mudd’s” claptrap quickly point by point:
    Point A – VT has long had a significant dairy industry and the State of VT is currently “putting its money where its mouth is” and financially supporting efforts to retain its dairies in very difficult market for dairy products. The internationally famous Cabot Cheese Co-op began in and continues to be headquartered in VT. It has been in continuous operation since 1919. Obviously, dairies have been important to VT for a long time and “Doc Mudd” has blown a lot of smoke.
    Point B – “Doc Mudd” is correct that micro dairies are NOT like most part-time jobs. However, $20,000 is almost 50% greater than the average on-farm income according to the USDA. In addition, all farming has a 24/7 demand; so, any farmer is used to juggling a variety of chores. This time, “Doc Mudd’s” smoke has the arrogance and elitism shown by many urbanites.
    Point C – This is clearly claptrap (see definition #1 at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/claptrap). It is entirely based upon assumptions made by “Doc Mudd” for his/her/its purposes. “Doc Mudd’s” false premise is inflated via false projections.
    Ms. Carter’s author’s bio here on Food Safety News (simply click on her name above) clearly states her affiliation with Bob-White Systems. I called Bob-White Systems and Ms. Carter does NOT sell its equipment. Rather, by following and reading the links provided (http://vermontvibesblog.com/ & http://rachelcarterpr.com/), it is clear that Ms. Carter is a published author and public relations professional.
    This is the second time I have pointed out an egregious violation of Food Safety News’ comment policy by “Doc Mudd.” By FSN’s own definition, “Doc Mudd” is a troll; yet FSN does NOT enforce its own policy. Why? What good is a comment policy that is neither advertised nor enforced?
    To list comments like “Doc Mudd’s” under the heading “Discuss” is a travesty.

  • Thanks for contributing opinions to the opinion piece I wrote.

  • Anthony Boutard

    A word on Mudd’s behalf. Her participation on this site spurred me into writing to my senators and congressman in support of the Tester Amendment. I realized how awful it would be if people with such low regard for family farmers regulated us. This voice of the industry with her unalloyed contempt for organic farmers moved me into action faster and more decisively than the amendment’s supporters.
    While it is clear Mudd’s arguments are just recycled industry statements, for those of us who do not frequent lobbies of state and federal government, her contributions are a tutorial that helps us refine our letters and testimony. Mudd also prompts excellent and informative responses such as Hamil’s, another service rendered.
    I also enjoy the way Mudd goes polysyllabic when normal words and logic fail her. Today, the chosen style is folksy and betrays a bit of insecurity, which is not nearly as fun as the usual bravado. Nonetheless, for this farmer, the day is never quite right without a comment from this industry troll.
    Carry on Mudd.

  • Ray James

    Here in Missouri there are a few small dairies that have been pasturing their cows and pasturizing the milk then selling it locally. It seems to be working. One uses returnable glass bottles.
    Dairy farming never was for everyone. Lots of hands on work with dairy cattle. Beef cattle are so much easier to care for as a part time farmer.
    Grass grows in the spring, summer and early fall which is when the cows are in milk in a grass pasturing system. Caring for a dry cow isn’t any harder than taking care of beef cattle. A neighbor could check on them for you while you took a cruise or visited a sunny spot.
    “Modern” commercial dairies do not take a break. Once the cow is in milk she is milked untill the production starts to drop then she is sent to hamburger land. Thus the short life span of a modern commercial milk cow verses a pasture/farmstead cow.
    I have seen Holstein cows eating rice straw and concentrated feed. 20 or 30 head on a lot that was less than two acres in size. The 2 acres included the milking shed. No pasture, no barn. Just a milk shed, a covered area where they could stand out of the rain/snow, water trough, a rice straw ring or two and some open area. Not my idea of how to operate a dairy.
    I for one am glad someone is trying to figure out a way to have families make a living while providing safe food to rural and urban families.
    I am concerned that many people that are choosing to drink raw milk are very uninformed. If they could tell me the risk they were willing to take I would not object to them taking it for themselfs. I do get upset by raw milk advocates that seem to ignore or worse yet talk down the risk. I have talked to urban people that wanted raw milk believing it was better than pasturized. More vitamins, good bacteria, good enzimes, no pesticides, no hormones and the milk would be cleaner and safer than pasturized milk. This person did not understand that only female cattle (cows) give milk. Just not sure if they do not understand that piece of biology/science how that they can understand the pasturization issue.
    I helped milk cows as a teenager on my uncles farm giving my cousins some much needed vacation time. We drank that milk after my aunt heated it on the stove then cooled it in the refrigerator. It sometimes had a burnt/off taste.

  • Doc Mudd

    Great to see everyone is so animated.
    We have Rachel maneuvering skillfully in our capitalist system, chasing down the American dream.
    Tony is finally participating in our democratic system of government (I am flattered to have aroused him from his torpor, to have him fulfilling his populist responsibilities, at last).
    And, of course, Harry grimly soldiers on in his relentless drive to quell thoughtful opinions unacceptable to his rather eclectic taste – if you can’t intelligently refute them, get them silenced, right comrade?
    Ah, all is well with the American spirit and there is hope for the future! Kumbaya, campers!!
    .
    .
    .
    P.S. to Tony: I tried being monosyllabic for a while but saleswomen kept mistaking me for an easy mark, insisting that I would be happiest if I purchased only overpriced farmers market food and if I donated $10 to them on their websites. I found that offensive.
    Professional family farmers, the ones who actually contribute to safely and affordably feeding my family, I respect and admire – always have (I write letters on their behalf to congressmen).
    But, grasping little boutique hobby farmers, you know the ones who always require special exemptions, the ones who can only distinquish themselves by spuriously trashing real farmers and ordinary consumers and perfectly edible food, well, what do they actually contribute? Who can respect them? Certainly not me.
    I too shall, indeed, carry on for the good of the order.