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Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful...

Posted 12/5/2019 2:25pm by Kinley Coulter.

Confession time…

In my younger days, before I became so mature and dignified and wise, my wife’s brothers taught me how to do ‘hand-brake turns.’  (Be careful who you hang out with in your impressionable years…)
All right, I’m not proud of it… but it helps me illustrate the shocking transition from ‘the green season’ to ‘the white season’ here at the farm.  
For those of you who were never immature and foolish male teenage drivers, a handbrake turn involves a moderate (or, immoderate) amount of forward momentum in a motor vehicle, accompanied by a sharp yank on the steering wheel, and a simultaneous upward pull on the hand-brake.  (…snow is a very helpful lubricant.)  This maneuver produces a few seconds of thrilling, but terrifying, sidewise sliding until the car whips around to a stop, now pointed 180 degrees opposite from the previous forward momentum… ready to head off in a totally different direction (Unless this whole procedure was (foolishly, don’t try this at home) carried out on a public road, and witnessed by a peace officer… requiring some fast thinking, and faster talking, and superior story-telling skills).  We, mostly,  limit our ‘hand-brake’ turns, these days, to the safety (and legality) of the farm.  
After a particularly satisfying turn, there are, occasionally,  silent bovine witnesses.  They would definitely give us 'two thumbs up' for a crisply performed handbrake turn… except they don’t have functional thumbs.  So, they merely display their impressed approval by taking another bite of grass with a knowing smile… yes, they were young and wild, once, too…. dodging around the farmer, running through fences, and generally creating misbegotten havoc.
Anyway, I feel that December 1st always brings a screeching hand-brake turn to our farming operation.  
Gone is the warm sun… gone the verdant pastures..... and gone the bulging bulk tanks brimming, almost bursting, with 100% Grassfed, Certified Organic milk.  Sadly, the green season is gone (sniff, sniff.)  
The livestock move into our bright, open, warm, cozy barns and spend the next five months contentedly ruminating, and lounging on dry, fluffy bedding packs made of organic straw and chopped cornstalks  (and hay that wasn’t high enough quality to feed.)  The animals are very satisfied to watch the wind and rain and sleet and snow blow by, while their servant/farmers make up fresh beds, and carry hay right up to their sniffing muzzles 7 days a week.  What a life!
Winter milk volume falls off by 40% or more… even the best hay is no match for living green pasture grass.  There is less beta-carotene (Vitamin A) in the hay than there was is the pasture grass… so the milk will lose some of its startling, bright, orange (sun golden) hue.  On the positive side, we are late in the herd’s lactation.  This means the milk and cheese and yogurt and kefir that we make from winter milk is richer and sweeter than summer milk… more Omega 3’s and CLA fatty acids to feed your brain and invigorate your immune system.  
Even in the spring, our milk puts the pathetic store-bought  organic milk to shame.  Theirs is a paltry 3.5% butterfat… ours starts out, thin in the spring when the cows first start lactating, at over 4% butterfat. By winter, our milk is pushing hard on 6% butterfat…6%!!!   What a phenomenal food this winter milk is!  You should need a doctor’s prescription to get food that is this powerful of a medicine!  Industrial dairies rob their extra cream from you, and still have the nerve to call the depleted milk ‘whole’ milk by ‘standardizing’ it down to 3.5%.  We leave it ALL in your milk.  ENJOY our rich, sweet winter milk!  

Not only is our winter milk full of precious butterfat, it costs a LOT to produce.  Pasture grass is extremely efficient… it produces a lot of milk, and requires very little work and management from the farmer.  Winter is quite another story.   We have to feed and bed the cattle with hay and fodder that already has a lot of expensive labor in it.  THEN… to add insult to injury… we get a lot less milk for all of the work.  In a perfect world, winter milk, with all of its richness and cost of production, would cost half again what summer milk costs.  People are used to cheap corn and strawberries and tomatoes in the summer… and they expect to pay a premium for good produce in the winter.  For some reason, milk and dairy products are the same price, year round.  Industrial dairy cows are always on bedding and stored feed… so they don’t experience the cost swing that pasture based dairies endure.
Anyway, we enjoy our work and are happy to pass our exceptional winter milk on to our customers at the summer price.  It feels really good to know that our hard work is producing health and vigor and vitality in, literally, hundreds of families.  It’s also comforting to know that our winter customers will come out in all sorts of miserable weather at farm markets to support our farm.  We are WELL aware that they could abandon us and shop in warm, dry supermarkets… and we greatly appreciate your faithful patronage.  Also, we know that spring is coming, with its high milk volumes and low cost of production.  If we keep our wheels spinning here at the farm all winter, we can take off in a hurry in a better direction when the next ‘hand-brake turn’ launches us back into another ‘green season.’