Cows, Cows, Cows

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

Iโ€™m the owner of Carrots โ€˜Nโ€™ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Before the Stonyfield Blogger Barnstorming Tour, I didn’t think twice about cows. To be honest, I thought they were dirty, smelly animals. But, after “getting to know” a bunch of them, I think cows are adorable, sweet, and sort of “magical!” ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Our first cow encounter of the trip took place atย Howmars Farm in Franklin, Vermont.ย Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy that supplies some of the milk that goes into making Stonyfield’s yogurts and smoothies. For more than 13 years, Howmars Farm has produced organic milk.

When we arrived, Jonathan Gates gave us a tour of his farm and answered a ton of our questions. He lives on the farm with his wife and three sons and manages the farm operations.

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Jonathan has “closed herd” of 50 milking cows, which we met face-to-face during our visit. (A “closed herd” means that the animals within a herd are all bred from within the herd. Animals are not purchased and incorporated into the herd.)

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Jonathan’s cows were so friendly! As soon as they saw us, they came right over. Each of the cows has a name, so it was fun meeting them! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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A mob of cows, of course, encouraged us bloggers to snap a bunch of photos. It’s not like we get to hang out with cows everyday! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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I received a few questions about what happens to old (organic) cows once they are no longer able to produce milk. We asked Jonathan this question and he replied by saying that they’re typically slaughtered (on the farm or at a local facility) and turned into beef. In fact, 48% of hamburger meat in the US is from dairy cows.

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So, Jonathan’s response wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s part of the business and livelihood of farmers and their families. Jonathan would go bankrupt if he kept all of the non-milking cows on his farm, so he ends up selling 10-12 cows each year.

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There is one old cow, however, that still lives on Howmars Farm. Deana is 15-years-old and no longer produces milk. Even still, Jonathan “can’t put her on a truck.” He definitely has a special place in his heart for her.

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A number of times while chatting with us, Jonathan pet his cows on the head like he would his family dog. You could tell that he really cared about each of them.

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Ahhh, a kiss from Deana! ๐Ÿ˜€

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This farmer lets his cow kiss him– how can you not buy organic!? ๐Ÿ˜‰

In addition to learning all about cows, Jonathan taught us about “rotational grazing,” which is a common practice used by organic dairy farmers. In fact, all of the farmers that we met used this technique. Rotational grazing is periodically moving the cow herd to different fields to allow them to graze on fresh pasture and let the previous pasture re-grow.

In the video below, Jonathan moves the fence to allow the cows into the new pasture. They all seem to know what’s about to happen and follow him. In theย second video, they run into the new field and start chewing away.

Mmm… grass! Nom, nom, nom! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Grazing benefits cows because they absorb all of the vitamins and minerals from the pasture, which is then converted into more nutritious milk for us. (More about this later!)

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After spending a good hour out in the cow pasture, we headed inside to see Jonathan’s milking house and try some of his cows’ milk. We were happy to see that his wife baked us a little surprise to go along with the fresh milk! ๐Ÿ˜€

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She made us blueberry muffins fromย The Stonyfield Farm Yogurt Cookbook! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Jonathan’s wife had a first edition of the cookbook! Cool!

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If you’re curious, the milk that we drank was raw. (Yes, we’re daredevils! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) It all comes back to knowing your farmer and where your food comes from. It tasted delicious– cool and creamy! ๐Ÿ˜€

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It was really neat meeting a farmer in person and seeing how my food is produced. I swear, the milk tasted a million times better than the store-bought stuff because I met the cows who made it. Sometimes I feel like I am soย disconnected when it comes to where my food comes from, but experiencing it firsthand on the farm made me feel even better about choosing organic.

P.S. There’s at least 4 more posts to come so stay tuned! :mrgreen:

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84 Comments

  1. Mmm those muffins look good and those cows are so cute. Is it too late for questions?? I’ve been reading about the downside of organic cows including that in order to maintain the “organic” lifestyle of the cows, when they get sick they can’t be treated with antibiotics back to health. It seems cruel, but is it even true? is it even cruel??

  2. I am really disconnected from where my food comes from too, but I love any opportunity to get a bit closer. I am a fan of cows…because they are responsible for ice cream which is my favorite…haha

  3. Cows are definitely curious animals….they LOVE nosing around if you’re out in the pasture. So glad you have the opportunity to connect with a dairy farmer. One question I have is what do the organic dairy farmers back east do with their cows after medicating them once they become ill? They cannot be milked in the organic herd ever again. Do they sell them to a conventional dairyman? Just wondering if it’s any different than out west.

  4. @beetred: Sort of….. They cannot treat with antibiotics, but there is also a regulation that IF the cow needs to be treated, and you withold treatment, you can be decertified. So organic farmers work hard at preventing illness as they have less of a toolbox if a cow does get sick. Jonathan said that in the 13 years he’s been organic, he’s only had to treat 1 cow (and remove her from the herd). Nancy from Stonyfield

  5. I’m getting a kick out of reading about your farm visit. I grew up on a farm, and I work in agriculture, so I guess I take it for granted how lucky I am to see cattle and visit working farms everyday. To answer a few of your commenters, raw milk can be dangerous to drink for the very old, unless you grew up drinking it and have developed a resistence to some of the “bad” bacteria. It’s actually illegal to sell raw milk in many states because of the food-safety risks. Also, while I’m a big fan of organic farms, it’s important to remember that not everyone can afford the higher cost of organic foods. If you can, that’s terrific. But it’s also OK to buy the plain ‘ol white milk at the grocery store.

  6. this just reminds me why i need to be a vegetarian again. all these animals are so precious, with feelings and emotions. they really are no different than the family cat or dog. what sweet creatures. i’m so happy you were able to share this with us.

  7. To be honest, I’ve met some cows that *are* just kinda big and dirty and smelly- but the cows in your post are so adorable! Squee!! Those big eyes…

  8. Love love everything about this post. This is exactly why I joined a CSA so that I could be really connected to the food that I eat and the farms & farmers that product it all. Thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to read about the rest of your trip. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I’ve never tried raw milk O_O I think I would be even less inclined to drink it after meeting the cows! The cows are so so so so cute! I never thought I would say that, but they are! I love that you’re sharing all this with us. It’s amazing!

    Wei-Wei

  10. I buy organic milk and yogurt but WHY is it so difficult to buy organic CHEESE? I’m just curious since I hardly ever see it in our stores. Can you ask?

    Also – in the 4th photo down from the top, the cow on the far left looks really SKINNY and you can see his ribs which are sticking out too far. He doesn’t look well. Is he ill or is there some reason he isn’t getting enough food to look “normal”? Thanks!

  11. Aww Tina, I loved this post!! The cows are so adorable; I just love animals! It’s so nice to see cows treated more humanely. Even way back in the day, cows were killed when they couldn’t produce milk anymore (just check out Little House on the Prarie!), so it’s great to see that these cows eat the proper foods and get good care while they’re alive! Can’t wait to hear more!

  12. I absolutely love how you found the cows to be magical! I don’t know cattle very well, but I am good friends with about 1000 sheep. I think they are amazing creatures as well! I think it’s important we all visit and ‘get to know’ the livestock we eat. Great post.

  13. I love kisses from big animals like that, especially horses and cows! Their lips are so cool feeling. Living and working a ranch would be my absolute dream job.

  14. I loved this post Tina! It’s really interesting to see how organic dairy farms do things differently than the conventional ones. I love how you described the farmer treating the cows as pets. I’ve come to realize that eating by-products from an organically/naturally raised animal that is living a happy life makes me feel as though I’m putting good energy into my body rather than stressed out, unhappy energy from animals/cows that are not being properly cared for.

  15. This was so interesting to read! I loved seeing the care that goes into the work done there and just the quality of it. It’s sad to know that such creatures are still sent to become beef, but it is just part of life and the business as you say. I know I still eat meat and it helps knowing that it’s not ALWAYS just a slaughterhouse with no thought to the quality of living for the animals.

  16. I love cows! I grew up on a beef cattle farm (our family’s property was surrounded on all sides by my uncle’s farm). The cows were grass fed and roamed freely over many many acres and sometimes even through our yard if they were crafty like that. They were sweet and would let you pet them, although I knew early on what happened to them. We even received a side of cow for Christmas one year.

  17. woah, i just watched the “herding” video, and near the end, there is a brown cow in the background with very large … milk jugs! lol why so big?? seems almost painful. was it just waiting to be milked??

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