Last week Sean, Cecilia and I went to St. Louis to visit my side of the family. After living on the ranch for three years I can safely consider myself a “country folk” and consequently I really don’t enjoy the suburbs, tv and small manicured lawns that could be grazed by animals. With that said, after being at my parents house for two days we were itching to get back the country and see what an active agriculture life Missouri has.
On Tuesday we visited some friends that we went to college with and throughly enjoyed visiting with them. It was just our luck that they subscribe to the “natural” lifestyle and are apart of a milk CSA (community supported agriculture) where they get fresh raw cows milk once a week from a local dairy that delivers to a nearby country store. Since they were headed out of town the next day they offered us to take their milk share for the week so Cecilia would have her normal raw milk (we don’t drink pasteurized milk). We gladly accepted and picked up the milk at the country store that day.
The next day we made a trip out to this dairy farm to see the farm and milk operation. We drove about an hour north of my parents house to Silex, Missouri to find a small family dairy at the end of a dirt road, surrounded by beautifully growing hay meadows (I wish I would’ve taken pictures). When we pulled up to the farm we were greeted by an older gentleman by the name of Hubert. Hubert was delighted to bring us down to the barn and put us right in the heart of action; he brought us into the milking parlor where his son (the owner of the dairy) was busy hooking up his dairy cows to milk machines. Tim (Hubert’s son) greeted us happily and invited us to join him on the milking floor as he continued to hook up milking machines to his cows and move cows out of the barn as they finished being milked.
We watched Tim as each cow filed into place into the milking parlor and stood uneventfully waiting to be milked. Tim then walked down the line of cows and cleaned each tit with a fresh cloth and dipped the tits in iodine to make sure they were sanitized prior to being attached to the milking machine. Once the machines were attached to the cows tits, immediately the milk started to flow through a series of pipes into a cooling unit which lead to their large milk vat. Once the machine detected no more milk flow the suction would stop and the milk machine would drop from the cow. Tim then would go down the line again and clean off their tits and out the barn they went back to pasture. The most enjoyable part of the whole experience was how laid back Tim was as he cleaned each cow and stopped to talk in between. He wasn’t in a rush and was just enjoying the company, despite the fact that he still had about 30 more cows to milk.
Tim’s dairy is not your typical dairy. It’s more like the old fashioned dairies that used to exist before high operating costs, extreme government regulations and mega-dairies pushing the small dairies out of business. It was fun to see the colorful arrangement of cows since he has several different breeds mixed together: Jersey, Brown Swiss and Holstein are his mix of breeds. Not too long ago Tim had 200 Holstein cows and was running a certified organic dairy. Despite having that niche market of the organic industry he was still considered a “small dairy”, lived far off the trucking route and was losing money rapidly as his milk was being sold off to different states and trucked thousands of miles before people received it. He decided that was not the way he wanted to run his dairy, so Tim sold off almost his entire certified organic herd and started a new journey into the raw milk industry.
Missouri’s regulations are less restrictive than in Idaho or Oregon which allows the producers to actually make money while running a raw milk dairy (crazy thought). Tim now only milks 50 cows a day and sells his milk raw and cheese locally. On 50 cows he is able to make more money and spend less time stressing out since his dairy is a much more manageable size. Everyday people come to his farm and pick up milk and on Tuesday’s he delivers milk to the Lake St. Louis area as apart of their CSA program. People can feel good knowing that their milk only came from a couple miles up the road, the cows are fed fresh grass and not stuffed into holding quarters until their next milking, and the milk is never pasteurized, which kills essential enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
Lavy Dairy Farms is also known for being resourceful with their left over milk before they clean their milk holding tank. All leftover milk is tubed into their new cheese making room. From there Tim will turn 50 gallons of milk into 50 lbs of cheese. This is a new enterprise for their family and is going really well, there is still trial and error with new cheeses like how much caraway seed to put into caraway cheese but it is helping them use all their resources effectively. All milk that is spoiled, becomes warm and the remaining whey left over from cheese making is given to the couple pigs they raise. This was very fun to hear because we have been soaking the grain we give our pigs in water/whatever milk we have left over for the last couple years. Pigs do great on dairy!
Tim’s sons were running around the farm helping with odd things and were just being boys! It was such a refreshing sight to see young children involved in the day-to-day work of the farm and smiling the entire time. The Lavy family enjoy their vocation as farmers and do everything with a smile, which was obviously rubbing off on the kids, because they were sure happy as well! There are not too many farms that you can visit and have 3 generations all happily working together.
After a couple hours of visiting and sampling some cheeses we said goodbye to the Lavy family and thanked them for such a great time. We highly encourage anyone in the Missouri/ St. Louis area to consider going to their dairy farm to see their operations and understand where milk comes from. They are an extremely welcoming family and are more than happy to show people how their operations work.
Check out their website at: www.lavydairyfarm.com