This time Francesco Tiezzi takes us to visit Reverence Farm, as the name says, because the techniques adopted are so original and effective that we can only be fascinated by them. And the most striking result is the raw milk with a 15 days shelf life.
di Francesco Tiezzi, North Carolina State University
Some time ago I had the opportunity to meet a couple of farmers in the area, who immediately seemed at least original to me. A veterinarian and a farmer run a 400-acre (180 hectares) farm right in the middle of the state of North Carolina.
They raise 5 different species: cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys. As if that wasn't enough, they directly market their products and also have a restaurant.
Reverence Farms is a farm located in the smooth hills of central North Carolina. The farm includes dairy cows, cows and beef calves. pigs, chickens, turkeys and a flock of beef sheep.
The owner is passionate about holistic management: when there is a pasture ready, first the dairy and beef herds get in, then the sheep, then the chickens, and finally the pigs.
When the pasture is exhausted, it is left to regenerate for months.
The pastures are polyphytes but have never been sown: instead, well-ripe and laden hay rolls were purchased, unrolled in the pasture and then trampled by the animals.
An approach that takes time to obtain a good pasture, but that definitely minimizes human intervention.
The restaurant offers a menu that includes “Southern comfort food” (i.e. typical dishes of the area), innovative dishes and the inevitable barbecue (meat cooked slowly with charcoal). All rigorously made with farm meat and eggs, while the other products come from neighboring companies.
A blackboard indicates the names of the supplier companies, with a lot of distance from the restaurant, strictly in miles.
The herd of dairy cows counts a few dozen, and finally 40 have been milked this year.
The number of heads may seem low but this is only part of the ‘polyculture' that characterizes this company.
The herd is “grass-fed”, that is fed only on pasture and hay, without the integration of concentrated fodder.
The pasture use is carefully managed, the same lot could be grazed again after 14-21 days in the summer or even 60-90 days in the low-growth seasons.
This allows complete regrowth and relief from soil compaction.
One thing that really impressed me about their management is the fact of leaving the calves under the mothers and letting them wean themselves.
While the bulls are weaned at about 6 month (before the achievement of puberty), the heifers are weaned at 10 months of age.
The cows spend the day in the stable with the calves, then in the evening go to pasture while the calves remain in a separate paddock. In the next morning they are milked and then return with the calves.
This may raise concerns but has opened up a new flow of income for the company: the sale of bulls and replacement heifers.
In fact, what seems to attract other breeders to buy their heifers is their robustness, which is not difficult to believe since feeding in the first weeks of life takes place with colostrum and milk from their mothers.
Then, for the bulls, there was also a planned mating operation and genetic improvement to make them suitable for grazing and feeding without supplementation.
The breed, the diet and the natural weaning of the calves lead to the production of fairly low per cow: an average of 6 kg of milk per day, with 6-8% fat and 5% protein.
If the company sold milk as a commodity (by quantity) or even to specialized dairies, it would have a hard time staying on the market.
Together with traditional pasteurized chocolate milk and buttermilk, they found another market channel: raw milk for pets.
The sale of raw milk for human consumption is prohibited in North Carolina, but not for animal consumption.
So you can buy and consume your cat, dog, raccoon, etc.. Or you can consume it at your own risk.
I admit I bought a few gallons of their milk for the dogs I occasionally sit.
In the hope that my mother (doctor) will not read this article, I admit that I also drank quite a lot of that milk. No side effects, but definitely an excellent quality milk.
Fatty, tasty, fully digestible, even “cold out of the fridge”.
But the thing that struck me most was its shelf life. Many of you will have tried raw milk from company distributors.
I guess that milk wasn't drinkable after a week. At best it became sour yogurt at worst it became bitter yogurt.
Well, the milk from this company was still perfectly drinkable 2 weeks after milking.
My speculation was that quality milk, made from healthy cows, will also be more stable over time.