Rain showers were falling on our farm as we wrote this newsletter. The grass in our pastures is turning green and starting to grow. We are hearing baby calves bawling in excitement to be fed. All these things mean that springtime is here on our farm!
Since our first calf arrived on March 4th, we have been busy taking care of new babies. After the first week, they started coming quickly by ones and twos and threes per day. Right now we have thirty-six babies that we are feeding their mothers’ whole milk morning and afternoon. We have twenty cows that haven’t had their babies yet, but we expect them to calve by the end of the month.
Every year, we are asked how we come up with a name for every one of the new calves. Our answer is lots of imagination and some inspiration from our friends and our experiences. This year we named a few with some Icelandic words because of our trip in February. Eyja is the Icelandic word for island; Kyr means cow (original, we know). The names of cheeses are also a source of inspiration. This year we named one of our calves after Epoisses, a stinky French cheese. Another custom that we follow that sometimes helps and sometimes makes choosing names harder: we try to pick a name for each calf that uses the same first letter as its mother. That way we can keep track of families in our herd.
This year we decided to only milk once a day during calving season to give us more time to take care of the new babies. The green grass is allowing the cows to produce plenty of milk to feed the calves. The extra raw milk that the calves don’t drink we bottle or use for making cheese. Everyone (including us) is happy to have fresh milk to drink again.
Beginning this week, we will be making cheese twice a week. We’ve already made a batch of Pirate Blue cheese, a batch of Uncle Joe’s, and of Clover Cheddar. We are getting back into cheese making mode again. Anthony spent several days this week reorganizing our cheese carts to give us room for new cheeses.
Dave attended a cheesemakers’ meeting in March with the Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture and the sanitarians from the PA Department of Agriculture covering the new regulations regarding testing for antibiotics. We have always tested every batch of cheese for antibiotics with a visual color change test, even though we don’t put any antibiotic treated milk into our bulk tank. Originally the new rules read that we would need an official lab to complete antibiotic testing and get a printed paper result before starting any part of the cheese-making process. However, we pump our milk from the milking parlor directly into the cheese vat to start the process. We thought that it would be safer to start the cheese-making process with good cheese cultures rather than wait hours for a test result, allowing other things to grow in the milk.
We were pleased when the PA Food Safety and Laboratory Services directors listened to our concerns and responded with a reasonable and rational enforcement plan. The new regulations state that a PDA certified lab has to return test results for our milk before we sell the cheese. We legally need to age our cheese 60 days before selling it, so that gives adequate time to send a sample to be tested and get the required written results back. We are grateful that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is supportive of raw milk cheesemakers and willing to listen.
Spring goes by fast when we are busy with making cheese and taking care of baby cows. Soon it will be time for our outdoor farmers’ markets to start. Boalsburg Farmers Market moves out from its winter location on May 2. Juniata Farmers Market remains indoors during the summer but will now be held every Friday. Ligonier Country Market’s first day is on Saturday, May 20. Huntington Farmers Market begins on Thursday, May 4.
You can also come see us and sample our cheeses at several events this month. We will be at Bear Creek Mountain Resort’s Spring Wine Festival on April 8 & 9. Ag Awareness Day at Penn State Altoona is on Thursday, April 20.
Well, that’s all the news from our farm and cheese cellar for this month. Would you like to get our newsletters every month via email along with our monthly cheese inventory? You can sign up for our monthly updates via the form at the bottom of our How to Purchase page.
Thank you to all of you who support our family farm and allow us to keep making great products.
Dave & Terry Rice and family