Recently, Organic Valley provided a visit to Stone Mill Dairy located near Hamilton, NY. Stone Mill Dairy, owned and operated by David and Michelle Stratton, is one of 17 dairy farms in Pennsylvania and New York that have joined the Organic Valley Cooperative as Grassmilk® suppliers. These farmers are producing 100 percent grassfed milk for use in the company’s Grassmilk products.
While there are no federal standards currently in place for grassfed herds, Organic Valley has a set of regulations that each farm must adhere to as well as the USDA regulations for organic herds. Some examples of these regulations are that the cows are to graze in pasture for a minimum of 60 percent of their diet during grazing season. Their diet is to consist of only fresh and dried grass, while not allowing for any supplemental grains such as corn and soy. Organic Valley does allow supplements such as organic molasses, salt, kelp and other trace minerals to round out the diet. The lack of a unified standard for grassfed producers and products is something that the American Grassfed Association (AGA) is working to correct. The group is made of farmers, certifiers, retailers, producers and manufacturers of grassfed products.
The farmers who have adopted the grassfed method of farming are doing so for a variety of reasons. These include increased sustainability, skyrocketing organic grain prices and for David Stratton, the philosophy of “what nature intended.” Going the organic grassfed route has paid off for many farmers who are claiming to see health benefits for the herd.
Many of the cows at Stone Mill Dairy have what Organic Valley veterinarian Guy Jodarski, D.V.M. calls, “Happy Lines”. These are horizontal lines that run along the sides of the cow and look like someone has run their fingers through its hair. Jodarski claims these lines to be found mostly on well-conditioned, grazing cattle as well as indicators of high Omega-3 fatty acids.
Farmers are seeing increased longevity of their milking cows as well, some milking cows up until they are 12 years old or more. Along with an increase in herd health, another major benefit that grassfed dairy farmers are seeing is an increase in milk prices as well with prices that run about one and a half to two times that of conventional milk.
Studies have shown possible health benefits for consumers of grassfed dairy products as well. One of the benefits is the increase in Omega-3 and CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) along with a decrease in Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 is often viewed as a “healthy” fat. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, as well as lead to less risk of a heart attack.
For more information on Organic Valley Grassmilk products or joining the co-op, please call the farmer hotline at 888-809-9297 or visit www.organicvalley.coop