Chapter I - Anatomy of Grass
Every uniquely delicious whole-milk product we craft begins as a single blade of green, growing grass.
The completely formed seedhead, which is used to identifiy a plant species. The introduced and indigenous grasses and plants of New York State number well into the many hundreds, and a grazing cow may eat literally tens of dozens of different grasses and plants per day -- and not a single GMO - modified one among them.
The flowering or seeding part of a blade of grass. Farmers guide their cows to eat grasses prior to this stage: the grass uses all the energy and protein to mature the seedhead, which reduces the “Feed Quality” of the grass for the cows. At the end of the autumn, farmers allow the paddocks to “Seed Out” for the following spring’s grass, keeping the lands fertile and reducing erosion.
The structure that clasps the stem at the junction of the blade and the sheath, thought to keep water and other devris from between the two. Grasses are vascular plants, meaning that they distribute nutrients (water & sugars) throughout the plant via a system of long, vertical cells.
The narrow band of connective tissue of “intercalery meristem” - i.e. where the blade cells grow, and after grazing, regrow from. The rest periods between the grazing and regrowth varies due to a number of components, including rainfall, temperature, time of year, type of grass, and are carefully calculated and planned for by grass dairy farmers.
The tough, tubular portion of the stem leaf, supporting the stem edges. Grasses are a fibrous, low-carbohydrate food source that humans couldn’t survive on alone, but that cows thrive on.
The main section of the leaf, very diverse in appearance and texture from species to species. The blade’s main function is to conduct the sun’s rays and begin the system of photosynthesis to feed and grow the entire grass plant - and regrow it after the cow has eaten it.
100% Grass-Based Farming
A Closed-Loop, Collective Effort.
The “job” of the farmer is to manage the cow’s place on the pasture, moving her several times a day to the best grasses for her.
The “job” of the cow is to prevent the grass from “heading out” to seed by clipping (eating) the top portion, and to spread manure to enrich pasture health.
The “job” of the grass is to continuously grow and attempt to produce a seed.
Our NY state farms’ pastures contain dozens of perennial native and introduced grasses and plants. Below are some of the most common varieties found on our farms.
Chapter II - Grazing
Grass dairy farmers plan the steps of grazing and moving cows from paddock to paddock, “harvesting” grass via hungry cows. This dance is constantly improvised by environmental and seasonal factors.
Also known as “mud season” in the early months, springtime on a 100% grass-fed dairy farm carries anticipation for both green pastures and the season’s first calves. Depending on the weather, our cows return (with much enthusiasm!) to newly- green pastures in early April through May. For our farmers, spring means the start of equipment maintenance and ongoing fence work, which continues through the summer. Field work for seeding pastures begins in as early as March, and cutting fields for hay and baleage can begin just two months after that—illustrating that pasture management means more than just letting the grass grow!
Summers at our New York State farms embody of the idyllic images of happy, grass- fed cows grazing in lush, sun-filled pastures. Our ladies spend most of their time outside grazing in pastures (when not in the parlor for twice-daily milking). Summer grasses are extra nutrient-dense—including a threefold increase in beta- carotene, which appears as a golden hue in the creamline of our cream-on- top yogurt and our fresh and raw milk cheeses. Farmers begin to cut pasture for creating baleage and hay for the long winter months. Summer is busy with hay harvest and grazing, and breeding (mid July through September for seasonal farms).
As the leaves in New York state turn to brilliant oranges, reds, and gold, our farms’ pastures growth slows with less sun and nighttime cold fronts. Cows are still grazing, but are enjoying more baleage and hay as their bodies prepare for the winter (our products begin to increase in overall fat content around this time, too!) A second round of calving plays out for our seasonal farms, and our farmers busy are wrapping up harvests, winterizing equipment, and beginning conference and education season.
Except on the coldest of days, cows are still out on pasture every day. What grass to eat, you ask? Our farmers will dump a load of hay or baleage out on the frozen pasture, and the cows will eat it and socialize outside. We’ve found that our cows’ overall health is better with some wintertime outside exposure rather than being in the barn or milking parlor the entire winter. Wintertime is busy time for our farmers who are planning the next year’s grazing patterns, financials, crop / pasture planning, and many other details to ensure a healthy, happy, productive herd and bountiful, lush pastures in the spring.
Consistently replenished all-you-can-eat-buffets
A transition between topographical features where a hillside intersects with flatland is a keyline. If a paddock has a hillside and a flat area, cows will generally overgraze the hillside and ignore the flat land or vise versa.
A fence along key lines that devides up the overall grassland into manageable pieces along key lines, ensuring the cows grazy evenly within a particular paddock.
A temporary fence within a paddock that prevents cows from grazing a particular area of grass, or re-grazing an area that was already grazed.
New York State
The Northeast Kingdom of Grazing
The cooler, wet summers and insulating snow cover of the northeast winters make it optimal for grass health and grazing conditions.
New York State Stats*
Milking Herd Size
(SOURCE: Cornell University)
Maple Hill Creamery Stats
Milking Herd Size
Only 0.39% of all dairy cows in NY State are organic, third-party certified 100% grass-fed.
Chapter III: Reduced Carbon Footprint
100% Grass-Fed is a Closed Loop
Our farms’ practice of grazing-and-growing on the farm bypasses the considerable resources used produce the corn, soybeans, or grains to feed dairy cows.
Grazing season stretches from mid-April to late October, depending on weather and pasture condition. Farmers move the cows, sometimes twice per day, to fresh paddocks for the best grass.
During Spring, Summer & Fall
Starting mid-summer, each farm harvests grasses and forage from their pastures to make hay (dried grass) and baleage (nutrient-rich, lacto-fermented plastic-wrapped grass bales—aka “cow pickles”) for their herds’ winter feed.
Make Hay & Baleage
From those same pastures
Many of our farms produce and store all the hay and baleage they need for their cows’ winter feed on their own farms.
Store Hay & Baleage
On the farm for winter feed
Chapter IV - Grass Processing Plants
Chew on this
Cows are ruminants, meaning they evolved to eat and THRIVE on highly fibrous grasses and plants. Their rumen is four-part digestive system with a very specific digestive flora.
What's best for her?
Different stages of a dairy cow’s life and the best grass for her!
Pregnant cows who are not making milk. Do best on semi-lush grass, which keeps them from getting too fat.
Young females who have not yet calved. Do best on a combo of semi-lush and lush grasses.
Calves who are not old enough to be bred. Do best on lush grass to help them grow well.
Self-explanatory! These ladies get the lushest grass on constant rotation so they can make milk and stay healthy.
The pH Scale
Gut Health Matters
What happens when a cow is fed a grain-based diet instead of a 100% grass diet?
When a cow eats corn and grain, the pH of the rumen begins to drop, becoming acidic, which destroys some of the ﬂora in the rumen, which lives only in a neutral range of 6.5 – 7.2. While a diet of corn and grain may increase a cow’s milk yield, it is can degrade the quality of the milk—especially disrupting the omega 3:6 balance. Additionally, an acidic rumen can cause a variety of aliments for the cow, stemming from systematic inflammation. Generally speaking, her lifespan will be shorter and her chance of infection and inflammation is higher.
PH = 4.0 (ACIDIC)
Corn / Grain-Fed Cows
As soon as a cow is fed grain, her pH drops. The higher the diet in corn and grain, the lower the pH drops. The gut becomes acidic. Much of the healthy gut flora dies off the now-acidic environment, disrupting both digestive and immune processes. Common health problems include acidosis, bloat, higher incidence of mastitis, inflammatory arthritis, laminitis, all of which have to be treated with antibiotics or other medical intervention (with more cost to the farmer). Corn-and-grain feeding does not contribute to long life expectancy in dairy cows.
PH = 6.5 - 7.3 (NEUTRAL)
100% Grass-Fed Diet
When a cow eats the diet she was meant to (grass), her gut flora (good bacteria in rumen) flourishes, aiding with digestion keeps immune system strong and her body healthy. Third-party testing shows that milk from our 100% grass-fed cows has an omega 3-to-6 ratio close to 1:1, which means that the omega-3 levels are higher than other brands tested*. Additionally, our milk has 3-5x the amount of beta carotene than other brands we tested. In general, 100% grass-fed animals live a longer and healthier life than conventionally-fed grain-fed cows, as this diet supports their health and longevity. *results available upon request.
Certified 100% Grass-Fed
Créme de la Créme Dairy Products
Why does our 100% grass-fed whole milk make the highest-quality products?
We craft our products to highlight the unique flavor and richness of our milk, rather than overloading them with sweeteners, “natural” flavors, thickeners, or gums. The best recipes are simply and made with the best ingredients!
Our products subtly change throughout the year, varying in flavor and even color as the cows’ diet changes from green grass to hay and baleage, making for a very special taste experience.
When you buy 100% grass-fed dairy products you’re not only supporting sustainable, small-scale dairy farming—you’re also going delicious dairy products produced in the US.
Third-party testing of our products shows that our milk has naturally-occurring omega 3 fats and less omega-6 fats than conventionally produced milk.