Over the years, Milky Way Farm has developed quite a following for its rich, delicious, healthy raw milk. Unlike most types of milk, raw milk is chilled “straight from the cow” with no processing to alter its flavor or nutritional integrity. To assure the high quality of our milk, we feed our cows the healthiest diet possible. This starts with 24-hour access to green grass—the staple of our cows’ diet. We also provide hay, particularly mid-summer and winter when grass is less plentiful, and individually feed a small amount of grain for extra protein when needed.
Because cows are ruminants, their digestive system is designed to intake grass. However, dairy cows, like nursing mothers, need extra protein and vitamins to produce milk. This type of fed process while dramatically can reduce the lifespan and quality of life for the cow. For that reason, we supplement pasture grazing with around 15% grain for our milk-producing herd. It can be up to 20 to 25% when the pasture grass is not sufficiently available in the coldest times of winter and hottest times of summer.
Most dairy farmers feed cows Total Mixed Rations (TMR) which contains as much as 70% or more corn silage and other grains, to increase the milk production. This type fed process while dramatically can reduce the lifespan and quality of life for the cow. In contrast, we never feed our cows corn silage (which can also alter the milk’s flavor), nor do we give them antibiotics or hormones to boost milk production. As a result, our cows live up to 15 years versus 3 - 4 years in many commercial environments.
The subject of genetically modified organisms (GMO) has become a hot topic in recent years and with good reason as it’s a complicated issue. According to the US Agriculture Economic Research Service, 93% of soy and 88% of corn is genetically engineered. In addition, virtually all restaurants and grocery stores (including natural food markets) use and sell GMO products. Even alcoholic beverages are made from GMO-grains!
Our cows are our livelihood and our passion, so we assure their diet is as wholesome as possible. Do we directly buy GMO grain? No. We buy our grain from a small mill in Georgia which produces a superb feed, even though it cannot be guaranteed GMO-free. Some of our competitors claim that their cows are fed a GMO-free diet, but that's rarely the case. At Milky Way Farm, we're always honest with customers, so here are the facts.
• For most grain suppliers, it’s impossible to tell how much GMO grain gets into the sysem. So even if you buy non-GMO grain, it’s possible for GMO grain to be included.
• Guaranteed GMO-free grain is extremely rare and costly—so much so that it would more than double the price of raw milk. And most people cannot afford $15 for a gallon of milk.
• Because of pollen drift and cross-pollination, even organic and non-GMO-certified grain can have traces of GMO. When a bee pollinates a GMO plant and then pollinates a non-GMO plant, the non-GMO plant becomes contaminated. Many recent studies show that often GMO-free crops test positive for GMO.
• The greatest portion of what our cows eat is from non-GMO products. Actually, the majority of our cows feed is from grazing on grass in our pasture or on hay that we grow on the farm. They also have the option of getting a rationed amount of grain prescribed specifically for Jersey cows by a bovine nutritionist. Because the milk from Jersey cows contain 20% more calcium and 20% more protein, they need some feed that contains ample sources of protein since they cannot get all they need from grass. Dairy cows, like nursing mothers, need extra protein and vitamins to produce milk, birth healthy calves and maintain their own health.
While organic milk offers environmental benefits and is often certified GMO-free, the way it’s processed destroys most of the vitamins or bacteria that help you digest milk. Most organic milk is pasteurized at ultra-high temperatures (UHT) meaning it’s heated at high heat to kill the natural bacteria in milk. This gives the milk a longer shelf-life. However, milk needs bacteria to help people digest it easily. That’s why an increasing number of people are lactose intolerant.
Raw milk is the most natural milk you can drink because it’s neither pasteurized (which kills bacteria including probiotics) nor homogenized (which blends the milk and cream, but also breaks down vital lactase enzymes and fatty acids in milk). Raw milk also includes more protein and the full range of vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D and E found naturally in milk. When milk is processed (even organic milk), it loses up to two-thirds of its natural vitamins A, D and E, half of its vitamin C and calcium, and virtually all of the vitamins B6 and B12.
At Milky Way Farm, we also use a special cooling method that chills milk below 40 degrees within seconds of it leaving the cow. This provides a longer shelf-life without killing off the “good” bacteria.
Pure raw milk is completely natural meaning it is not pasteurized or homogenized. If your raw milk supplier pasteurizes the milk, it is processed and cannot truly be called raw milk. Pasteurization began in the early 1900s because dairy conditions were unsanitary at that time. Most non-organic milk is heated to 161° for 15-20 seconds to kill bacteria. Most organic milk is heated to 280° for 1-2 seconds to kill bacteria (as well as most nutrients).
Pasteurization, however, is not essential to assure a healthy milk supply. South Carolina raw milk dairy farmers are held to a higher standards than raw milk dairies in neighboring states. What’s important is to always make sure your milk (processed or raw) is regulated by a certified food safety agency or health department, is certified as grade A, and is tested on a regular basis.
Our cows are not given hormones or steroids.
We do not use restricted chemicals on the farm.
The SC Health Department runs monthly tests on our raw milk for e.coli, bacteria, and SCC. Johnes, TB, and Brucellosis (Bangs disease) is tested yearly. We also sell raw milk for pasteurization - every batch of milk that is picked up is tested. Pickups are every other day.
We sell SC Grade A raw milk. The Grade A standards are as follows:
• SPC (bacteria) - must be below 10,000 (our milk is normally below 1,000)
• SCC - must be below 1 million (our milk is normally below 250,000)
• e. coli - must be 30 or below (our milk is normally less than 2)