Updated: Aug 25
Milk is milk, right? As long as it pours over cereal, it's fine.
The truth is, all milk is NOT created equal.
I'm not even talking about milk substitutes or animal-free gmo milk. Depending on how the animal is managed, milk from two different farmers can have enormous differences in how they affect you, for good or bad.
One of the biggest factors in the quality of milk is what the animal ate.
Modern dairy animals have been super-bred to be mega milk producing machines. But they can't make tons of milk on grass and forage, which is what ruminants (four stomached animals including cows and goats) were designed to eat. They have to eat what is called "concentrates," food that is higher in carbs and protein than lush green grass. Industrial dairy cows might be fed 30 to 50 pounds of this grain mixture a day to support high milk production. In some cases, industrial dairy cows have been fed concentrate rations that include chicken manure, newspaper, and truckloads of sugary kid's cereal.
This unnatural diet is stressful on the animals. Their bodies exist in a state of acidosis. They need lots of medical interventions like antibiotics to combat udder and hoof problems. The average age of a cow in a conventional dairy farm is only 4 years old. Their milk is unhealthy, with unbalanced omega fatty acids.
In contrast, cows that eat only grass and hay don't make nearly as much milk, but they live in harmony with the milk production that a natural diet can support. Their health is vibrant. They can easily live to be 10 to 15 years old, sometimes even older. Grassfed milk is naturally high in beta carotene, CLA's, and omega 3's.
I have seen this difference on my own farm. Back when I first acquired dairy goats, I didn't understand the importance of a natural diet and I fed the recommended amount of grain concentrates, supplemented with poor pasture.
My girls had frequent bouts of mastitis and hoof rot. At birth the kids were weak and had to be helped to the mother's teat. The moms were exhausted after birth. They were alive, but they were not thriving.
I began to experiment with different feeds. I gave them carrots and beets for their carbs, and alfalfa for protein. It was a fresh, whole diet. There was an enormous difference at birthing time. Instead of weak kids and exhausted moms, the kids were right on their feet. The moms acted like birth was a breeze. The hoof rot and mastitis also disappeared on the new diet.
It's really true that "you are what you eat." It's true for cows and goats. It's true for people. The milk that comes out of a concentrates-loaded cow is lacking vital nutrition. The milk from grassfed cows has the nutrients we need to not just live, but to *thrive.*
Stay tuned for the next exciting blog post to find out what happens to milk after it leaves the animal, and how that affects your ability to digest it!
Find my grassfed milk here!
For an in depth discussion about how my adventures in natural feeding led me from goats to my beloved Lynch lineback cows, see this article: https://blog.cheesemaking.com/from-goats-to-heritage-cows-a-homesteaders-decision/