A good pasture, made of dozens of grass and legume species, can provide appropriate nutrition and welfare to the cows. A composite pasture also confers volatile and non-volatile molecules that add flavor complexity to the cheese and bring consumer enjoyment.
By Francesco Tiezzi
Meadow Creek Dairy. Galax, VA.
About 6 years ago I joined a farm visit with an extension faculty, the topic of the visit was manure management and was organized for students and dairy farmers.
We drove all the way to Virginia because our leader wanted to show us how is it possible to milk dairy cows without producing any manure.
The visit was interesting, and the cheese tasting was beyond any expectations!
Meadow Creek Dairy is a family-owned farm located in Galax, on the mountains of South-Western Virginia at an elevation of 2,800 ft. The farm produces cheese which is sold through grocery store chains, like Earth Fare.
The farm milk about 160 cows, mainly Jerseys.
Calving is seasonal, starts in March and is completed by the end of April, in order to take advantage of the pasture production in the spring and summer.
Cows are dried out in the early winter when snow starts to cover the ground. Winter feeding is based on the hay cut and baled during the summer.
Usually, the last cheesemaking of the year is done on Christmas eve, then the cow (and family) rest starts!
The farm has a small barn for the winter and the cows spend most of the time outside.
During lactation, a small gran supplementation is provided to the cows at milking, together with mineral salt and Norwegian kelp.
Pastures were started when the farm began grazing, in 1980. Perennial grasses have established and have only been managed with rotational grazing.
Grass is grazed every day in a new pasture, which is then let to rest and regrow.
The cows are allowed to graze a complex mixture of probably a dozen of perennial grasses, legumes and other species (except for the winter season!).
The farm owners brought their products to shows like Cheese (Bra, Italy) and recently won several awards of the American Cheese Association.
The dairy makes mostly three kinds of cheese. Probably, the best cheese I've ever had in the US!
The first cheese made on the farm starting from an original recipe dictated by their own taste. This is a semi-cooked, pressed curd cheese, aged for 90 days with a rind of Penicillum. The recipe is deliberately simple to let the milk express its aromas.
Grayson (from Grayson county)
Created after a trip to Ireland and Wales, it is a washed-rind soft cheese. It is aged in a cellar that has been specially built. According to the owners, it is the one that best expresses the terroir of the milk and the cellar.
Reminds: Livarot, Taleggio, Reblochon.
Inspired to the Alpine cheeses of Savoy and Val d'Aosta, it required several visits to those regions by owners before it came to light. Aged for at least six months, the owners wanted to make a cheese of that type precisely because of the similarity between the production environments: the mountain.
Reminds: Comte, Abondance, Beaufort.
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