The Help Center
Why raw milk?
Unlike pasturized milk, raw milk is a whole food. It is unaltered from it's natural state. It contains an array of proteins, enzymes, nutrients, and vitamins in natural form. Studies show this allows the body to utilize it easier. There are many sources available to research the benefits of raw milk, we will list them below and encourage you to dive in.
You may or may not know that in Virginia, the consumption of raw milk is illegal unless it is sourced from your own cow. The sale of raw milk is illegal regardless. Herdshares allow someone to purchase a share of the herd/cow and are therefore entitled to milk from their own cow. Don't worry, you won't have to take your cow home. She will live here on the farm and we will care for, milk, and house her for a monthly boarding fee. Shares can be purchsed as a half or full and as long as enough shares are available, you're able to own more than one. Typically, a half share will be equivilent to half a gallon per week and a full share will be equivilent to a whole gallon per week. It's important to note that amount of milk is determined by the output of the herd. There may be times production is low. Remember, you are not purchasing milk, you're recieving milk that your cow is producing
What breed of cow? Why?
We have a holstein herd. Holsteins are the top producing dairy breeds and one of the largest in body composition. Adult holsteins average 1500lbs and have the ability to produce an average of nine gallons of milk per day.
We chose holsteins for a few reasons. First, Chris is familiar with holsteins from his time on Grandma & Grandpa Ball's farm. Second, most dairies in our area have jerseys and we wanted to provide a different option. Lastly, we enjoy the milk from holsteins as it is not as thick as milk from jerseys due to the lower butterfat content, it's consistency is more comparable to that of whole milk found at the grocery store. We still have a good amount of cream, but not as much as you'll find in a gallon of jersey milk, and we find it to be more versitile.
What do the cows eat?
Eight months out of the year, our herd freely graze on pastures that have been naturally regenerated through rotational grazing practices. In the winter months, our herd has unlimited access to premium quality hay. While the cows are in milk, or lactating, it is important we maintain their dietary needs. Unlike smaller, lower producing dairy breeds, holsteins reqiure a higher plane of nutrition due to high production and large body size. Cows in this category are already in a negetive energy balance due to their innability to eat their energy requirments in roughages (grass/hay) and are utilizing body condition for energy, so when in milk, it's easy for these cow's body condition and health to decrease drastically. Because of this, witholding concentrates (grains) would be detrimental to their health. That being said, it is important to us that they are consuming high quality concentrates. To achive this, we hand select ingredients from a local mill to create a custom feed with only a few purposeful ingredients.
100% grass fed has become popular in the last 10 or so years. While we support everyone's choices and we don't disagree with the benefits of grass fed beef, it's important to remember feeding for beef is not the same as feeding for milk and different breeds have individual requirements. If you have any questions about this topic, please contact us!
What are the living conditions?
The physical, mental, and emotional health of our animals is taken seriously. Yes, these are livestock serving a purpose but they are loved and respected for the nourishment they bring to our family and community. Our cows are happy cows. They have 24/7 access to large pastures and shelter if they choose to use it. They have fresh water and can graze at any time (or hay in the winter months). We practice calf sharing, meaning we share the heifers with their calves. For the first 3 weeks of their life, they had unlimited access to their mothers milk to ensure they recieved all the colostrum goodness for a happy healthy calf. After that period of time, we begin milking and "sharing" the milk with the calves by allowing them to continue to be with their mothers instead of permanently separating them. Our cows are LOVED. We spend a lot of time with them outside of milking. You can often find us laying with them out in the field, giving lots of neck scratches, or our kids running around with the calves.
How are the cows milked?
Our cows are milked inside the barn in a clean designated milking stanchion. We use a milking machine that significalntly reduces the time milk is open to the atmosphere limiting possibility for contamination. The equipment is put through a three step cleaning and sanitation process after each milking. Afterwards, the milk is taken immediately to our bottling room inside the barn for an ice bath. The milk is chilled for two hours and then filtered before being bottled into sterilized glass milk jars and sealed with a tamper proof cap.
How long will raw milk last?
Unlike pasturized milk that expires, raw milk sours. When raw milk sours, it is not unusable or "bad". There are many ways to use soured raw milk such as making yogurt, kiefer, cheese, sour cream, just to name a few.
As long as proper refirgeration is maintained, raw milk should hold onto it's fresh taste for 7-10 days and possibly longer. Milk should be kept at 35 degrees and should not be left out for exended periods of time.
Will raw milk always look & taste the same?
Throughout the year there are factors such as grazing options in different seasons that can have an impact on the way milk tastes. There usually isn't too much of a difference, but it can be noticable when the cows change their eating habits or what they are eating ( hay vs grazing). Be assured, this change in taste does not mean the milk is bad. As far as look, our milk should remain a creamy white during the winter months while consuming hay but may yellow some due to increased keratin from healthy pastures. You'll notice a dull in color when the cream separates from the milk, but that will remedy as soon as you shake/swirl that cream back in before use.
Is your milk tested?
Yes, we feel a moral obligation to our share owners to test our milk, making sure we are maintianing clean equipment and providing safe milk. We send a sample to the Virginia State Lab AT LEAST once a month for them to perform an Aerobic Plate Count which tests the cleanliness of our equipment, this test reflects the shelf life of the milk. They also perform a Coliform Plate Count that tests for the number of coliform colonies, if any, in 1ml of milk. We are currently in the process of becoming RAWMI listed. Raw Milk Institute is the leader in raw milk safety and education. Farms listed by them are held to high standards and regular testing. In the meantime, we are abiding by their standards for raw milk testing, saefty, and cleanliness. If our labs ever come back above RAWMI standard levels, we will hold the milk until the issue is resolved. We believe in transparancy and will provide our test results to herdshare owners as requested.
How will I recieve my milk?
Milk will be filtered and bottled into sanitized half gallon glass jars with new tamper proof caps at each pickup. These caps are reusable, so feel free to keep them for your personal use. It is the share owners responsibiliy to wash the jar and return to us at weekly pickup to be put through the sanitizing process.
We recommend rinsing your bottle and handwashing in hot water, followed by a cycle in the dishwasher. Air dry your bottle UNCOVERED and do not use paper towels or rags to dry the inside of the bottle.
Where will I recieve my milk?
Milk can be picked up directly from the farm in Suffolk, Va on Sunday's and Wednesdays. There are also two community meet ups a week in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Contact us for specifics on the times and locations.