By Jimmy Sherfey
When we think about a dairy cow, we might picture the classic black and white Holstein as well as what they promise to bring – a cool glass of milk, maybe at a sun-washed breakfast nook. However, we don’t always think of the distance between these two images. For instance: the cow’s habitat, quality of life, diet, and its general drain on time and resources. All of these can vary from breed to breed, farm to farm. In the case of the famous Holsteins, it can take quite a lot of imported, processed feed to produce a gallon. By contrast, the Jersey Cows at Keely Exum’s Dairy Farm in New Smyrna Beach do not require the endless amounts grain forked into the maw of a typical heavy breed. In fact, the cows at Keely’s don’t eat grain, feeding primarily on the grass growing in the farm’s ample pasture with a just a little help from non-gmo Alfalfa (a forage crop beneficial to livestock for millennia). Add to this grazing philosophy, the freedom for cows to grow naturally, free of hormones and antibiotics, and you’ve got pure happy, healthy dairy.
“On unlimited pasture they choose what they want,” Keely says holding her infant son Arthur. Her farm offers one hundred acres of grassland to seventy head of cattle and the general public is welcome to witness the milk being drawn from udders every evening from 5-7pm, as they pump out around 60 gallons of raw dairy a day.
While in attendance visitors won’t have to look hard to spot happy livestock elsewhere on Keely’s idyllic property. A team of charcoal-colored Berkshire hogs, when not wallowing in the nearby spring, can be found at the fence of their 20 acre pig pen waiting for the day’s ration of dairy. This rare heritage breed of pig yields a well-marbled pork with chops bearing a close resemblance to steak.
Adding to the farm’s riches, and more or less there for good company, are chickens, ducks, alpaca, and horses all enjoying their own section of the farm.
The farm doesn’t stop at raw, grass-fed milk*. Keely also makes fresh cream*, yogurt* (greek, icelandic, and drinkable), cottage cheese*, kefir*, buttermilk* and even milk-based soap.
In addition to being able to live on the grass based diet that the farm provides, Jersey cows also produce superior milk. Jersey cows produce a more digestible milk protein (a2) than other breeds and richer, creamier milk with a higher fat content than Holsteins. Fresh, raw milk has a rich cream layer on top, an attractive attribute given the preponderance of thin homogenized, pasteurized milk.
Though she may be a little biased, you’ll never be able to accuse her of not caring about the farm and the animals that populate it. Exum treats her cows more like trusted employees, rather than expendable resources to be sapped. While large scale farms obsessed with the bottom line might turn less-productive cows into ground beef, each of Keely’s enjoy the range life long after prime output, free to raise their calves.
“How can you eat them when they’ve given you everything?” Exum says.
Keely Farms Dairy delivers to homes and businesses in Brevard, Volusia, and Seminole Counties as well as the greater Orlando area, free of charge.
In addition to raw dairy products, you can order $20 farm boxes overflowing with delicious assorted veggies from their neighbors at Tomazin farms. Order online here: http://www.keelyfarmsdairy.com/order-here.html
*As required by the Federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance and Florida Statute 502.091, which forbid the sale of unpasturized milk products for human consumption, this farm’s products are labeled: “Not for Human Consumption” and sold as “Feed for Calves.”