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Welcome to our dairy!  Truly, the cow barn is the very heart of our farm.  Christine grew up raising and showing cattle.  Though she didn’t realize it back then, she was bitten by the bug, and after only a few short years off the farm she realized that she couldn’t live without some bovine company.  Christine was out looking at cows before we had even moved to the farm.

We strive to raise heritage dairy breeds.  We enjoy working with our Brown Swiss cows.  The Brown Swiss cow is a large stature cow that is know for producing a high quantity of fat and protein rich milk  They are very popular with cheesemakers because they have a great cheese yield.  One other notable thing about Brown Swiss cows is that they are remarkably docile and sweet.

As a small family farm, we enjoy the middle road.  We aren’t getting record breaking quantities of milk or even record breaking percentages of cream (though our cream line often settles over 25%).   What we are getting is delicious milk from happy cows who eat green grass in the sunshine.

We love the fact that we are practicing farming the way it would have been done a hundred years ago.  The most important thing to us in the health and happiness of our cows.   The time spent in the barn in the early hours of the day are relaxing pastoral moments we spend with the cows who provide us with their valuable milk that we make into so many delicious things.  We respect our cows.    We don’t take calves away from their mothers at birth.  Instead we carefully schedule the day out so that the calf gets her milk and we get ours.

We are a small family farm, not a big dairy.  Christine usually spends countless minutes after milking giving the cows a good scratching and brushing. When visitors see Christine with the cows, they often compare her to Hagrid with his pet dragon.  Though the cows seem large and intimidating  to some people, Christine only sees them as the sweet personalities she knows and loves.

We LOVE to share our cows with people.  As a way to promote farming and community, Christine invites anyone who wishes to come out and milk with her.  If you can make it out in the early hours, you are welcome to come check it out and see where fresh, delicious milk comes from.

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Cast Iron Farm Raw Milk

 $18/Gallon

Thank you for your interest in the raw milk at Cast Iron Farm.  Our milk schedule pretty full.  Feel free to read through the information on this page to become familiar with us and what we do.  Then, click here to go to the page to fill out the form to be put on our waiting list.  We will contact you when there is space available.  At this point in time, the wait list is expected to be 1-2 months.

We produce raw milk at Cast Iron Farm.   Raw milk is milk as it comes out of the cow.  It has not been heated or pasteurized with the intention of killing bacteria.  Pasteurization came into general practice after some uninformed and unethical producers put out raw milk that was sickening and killing many in the 1800’s.  Here at Cast Iron Farm, we have done a lot of training and research in clean milk practices and we follow strict protocol to ensure that our milk is safe and clean.  We believe that milk comes out of the cow as it was intended to be consumed, and we do everything in our power to ensure that it is safe.  All that said, raw milk has a very real chance of carrying very real, very harmful bacteria in it, (listeria, campylobacter, e-coli, salmonella, etc.)  We would like you to be aware of that risk and to know what lengths we go to produce our milk.

Here are the things we do here at Cast Iron Farm to ensure that our milk is high quality and clean.

1.) We milk healthy cows.

  • All of our cows have been vaccinated on a standard vaccination schedule so that they are not carrying and spreading debilitating diseases.
  • Our heifer calves are given calfhood vaccinations at six months old, as legally required, to guard against brucellosis.
  • If a cow shows a sign of illness of any kind, her milk is removed from the supply until such a time that we know her milk is safe.
  • Because we are a small producer with only a few cows, we spend a lot of time with our cows.  We know each cow very well, so it is clear to us when a cow is feeling off.
  • We do a CMT (California Mastitis Test) regularly on our cows.  This tells us if the cow has any white blood cells in her milk, which could be a sign of mastitis or other inflammation.  Milk from cows testing even slightly positive is taken out of the milk supply.

2.) We keep our cows in clean conditions.

  • From March through November, our milking cows are kept on a pasture that is rotationally strip grazed.  The cows are kept in pairs on a lot that is 30 feet by 75 feet.  Each day, they are brought into the milking parlor and returned to a new, clean  piece of ground.
  • From November to March, the cows are kept in a dry lot in our barn.  The cows are brought into the milking parlor for milking each day.  While they are in the parlor, their pens are cleaned and rebedded with fresh straw bedding.  During this time of year, the cows go out on pasture an average of 2 times per week, weather permitting.
  • The milking cows never stand in muddy pens, ever.
  • When the cows are moved each day, they are taken fresh water, ensuring that their water source is clean daily.
  • In the barn, the cows drink from small, automatic waterers that are kept clean.
  • Our water source (domestic well) is tested yearly for potability to ensure that no contaminants are in the water supply.
  • The milking parlor is attached directly to the cows’ winter quarters so they don’t have to walk through mud and muck before they are about to be milked.

3.) We feed only the best quality feed.

  • When on pasture, the cows do not return to the same piece of ground more than 1 time every 31 days, only 9 times in a year.
  • The pasture that has been vacated is irrigated to encourage regrowth and to encourage distribution of manure into the soil system.
  • Our rotational strip grazing practices ensure that the cows are only eating fast growing green grass before it forms a seed head, which is the grass that contains the most nutrition.
  • Our pastures are a mixture of orchard grass, alfalfa, clover and timothy.  The clover and alfalfa are legumes that provide much needed, high quality nutrition to the cows and thus the milk, and eventually YOU.
  • Being returned to the same pasture only once per month keeps parasite loads low because their hosts are not on the same piece of ground to be reinfected during the next cycle.
  • In the winter, we feed a mixture of alfalfa, clover and orchard grass hay.  We work very closely with our hay producers and spend time in the field at haying to ensure the hay maintains the most nutrition possible.
  • Our hay and straw is stored in our barn loft, which is kept free of pests by our roaming barn cats.
  • The grain for the cows is kept in rubber feed containers with a high turn over.  No feed sits around for an extended period of time.
  • The cows get hay on a free choice basis and are never limited in the feed they can eat.
  • Our cows have access to salt, loose dairy minerals and kelp at all times.
  • At milking, our cows are given a mixture of alfalfa pellets and rolled barley.  The grain in this mixture makes up less than 1% of their total feed.  The grains give the cows much needed energy to produce milk.
  • Though not all of the feed our cows eat is organic, they are never fed GM grains.

4.)  We don’t push our cows beyond their limits.

  • Milking cows is hard work, and we are a small operation.  We have opted to milk our cows once per day.  This allows us to have a life outside of the farm.  It also allows the cows to produce at a volume that is sane.  They produce at about 70% to 80% of their maximum possible volume. This allows them to keep some of their feed and nutrition for themselves.
  • Commercial dairies only allow a cow two months off from milking in a year.  During those two months, she is at the end of growing a calf (as a cow must calve to produce milk again, or “freshen”).   Though we sometimes follow this schedule if a cow is up for it, we will give a cow a longer rest if they are showing that they need it.

5.) We have a relationship with our cows.

  • We don’t sell or replace our cows regularly.  This allows us to build a relationship with them.  They learn to know what we expect of them and they willingly give us their milk.  We feel like knowing our cows inside and out helps us produce high quality milk.
  • We maintain a closed herd.  We keep a bull on our property to service our cows, so they are not exposed to diseases from a rented bull or by technicians that travel around to many different farms carrying potential diseases.
  • By keeping our cows healthy, we rarely bring new cows onto the property, limiting our exposure to the diseases extant in outside herds.
  • If we do need to bring on a new cow, we only get registered cattle that have a documented management history who have been tested to be free of Staph A, Johnes, BVD, BLV and TB.
  • We keep accurate records on every aspect of our cattle management.
  • Our cows are expected to keep producing for 9 or 10 lactations.  By contrast, on average, commercial dairy herds usually dispose of a cow after her 2nd lactation, at around 36 months of age.

6.) We work with heritage breeds of cattle to keep them from disappearing forever.

  • Our milkers are mainly Brown Swiss. We are lucky that many genetics are available to us through AI, and we intend to continue working to promote the breed.
  • Our cows and new heifer calves are registered to maintain the genetic lines for the future.

7.) We comply with all of the State of Oregon’s guidelines on raw milk.

  • In summary, we keep and milk less than three dairy cows, we do not process our milk in any way, we do not offer our milk for sale in a retail setting, we do not advertise and our milk must be picked up on our farm where it is produced.
  • Please do not ask us to “process” milk by skimming cream.  We will not deliver milk off the farm.  No exceptions.  It’s against the law.
  • We follow these rules for our safety and for yours.  We also like to believe that we are setting a good example for all producers and consumers by showing that this model CAN be done and it can be done CORRECTLY.

8.) We are a member of ORMPA (Oregon Raw Milk Producers Association).

  • ORMPA is a group that came together to create standards for raw milk and to act as a resource for those producing it.  They provide training for producers regularly.  We are active in this group and attend regular training.  It allows us to meet with and learn from other producers.

9.) We are a member of FTCLDF (Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund).

  • FTCLDF is an organization fighting on the front ranks to ensure that our right to produce milk and your right to buy milk is not attacked.  They are on call 24 hours a day 365 days a year to help guard our rights.
  • FTCLDF also has a staff dairy consultant who is available to assist in any technical dairy and cattle questions.  This helps us give the best care we can to our cattle.

10.) We keep pigs.

  • This might sound like a funny “safety point,” but it is important.  Before we had pigs, it was really hard to dump (down the drain)  milk that wasn’t perfect.  Now that we keep pigs, it is an easy call.  If milk isn’t 100% perfect, we can take it out of the supply, and it doesn’t go to waste, but it isn’t going to make anyone sick either.

11.) We don’t regularly hire out our milking.

  • Christine is our milker.  We have chosen to milk the cows only once per day so that she can be the person who consistently milks the cows every day.  She knows the cows and they know her.  She created these safety rules and knows them by the back of her hand.  She is passionate about creating clean milk and has a vested interest in following these practices.
  • We have a relief milker who milks when Christine is sick or is on vacation.  Emma has trained extensively with Christine and is a very conscientious, dedicated milker.

12.) We clean our cows thoroughly for milking.

  • We clean the udder of a cow with a clean rag when they come into the parlor.  If they have manure or dirt on the udder, it is cleaned until all remnants have been removed.
  • A headlamp is worn by the milker so that she can have adequate lighting to clean the cow.
  • Each teat is then dipped into a 5% iodine teat dip solution.  This is allowed to sit on the teat for 5 seconds before being wiped off by a clean, dry rag.
  • The first few squirts of milk are then stripped out onto the ground.  We test for any signs of off color or texture in the milk at that time.
  • We then do a CMT test on each teat to ensure there is no inflammation in the udder.
  • The milker is then hung on the cow after another verification that the udder is clean and dry.

13.) We handle the milk and equipment with great care.

  • The bucket of our milker sits in a large tub of ice water.  The warm milk goes into the cool bucket and starts the cooling process immediately, halting any possibly bacterial action.
  • After the milk has been filtered, the jars are placed into a tub with ice water until they come down in temperature.  Our milk is chilled to under 40 degrees within 40 minutes of milking.
  • Our milk is poured in our creamery, a space that has been set up solely and only for milk handling.
  • All of our milk bottles and bottling equipment is run through a dishwasher that sanitizes by holding them at 165 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • The milk is run through a clean, new milk filter before bottling.
  • The milk jars are filled quickly, topped and put out for pick up.
  • We thoroughly scrub the floor and walls of the milking parlor once per week.
  • The floor of the milking parlor is washed down daily.
  • We inspect our milking system monthly, and replace the inflations and the milk lines as necessary.
  • After milking our milk lines and equipments are cleaned by our clean in place (CIP) system as follows:  1.) We run 3 gallons of tepid water through the lines and bucket.  2.)  We run 3 gallons 150 degree soapy water through the lines and bucket.  3.)  We run 3 gallons of water treated with a dairy acid or vinegar through the lines and bucket.  4.)  We run 3 gallons of dairy sanitizer through the milk lines and bucket.  5.)  We run 3 gallons 150 degree rinse water through our milk lines and bucket.
  • Our milk buckets are hung upside down in wait for the next milking.
  • Our milk claws are hung to drip dry until the next milking.

14.)  We test our milk regularly to check that we are doing a good job.

  • Our test results are posted in the creamery for viewing as well as online here.
  • We send samples of our milk to an independent lab on the first non-holiday Monday of the month.  This gives us a chance to double check that we really are doing the job of producing good, clean milk.
  • We keep samples of milk from every day for the past month so that if there ever were to be a problem, we have some of the milk available for testing.

15.)  Our milking parlor and barn have an open door policy.

  • Any day that you are on the property, you are welcome to look in on the milk parlor or in the cows pen.  That gives you a guarantee that you know what the conditions were like on the day your milk was produced.
  • You are also welcome in the barn so long as the barn doors are open.  Please get help from a farmer if all barn doors are closed up.

16.) We don’t allow other species to interact with the cows.

  • Though we keep chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits and horses on the farm, the species are all kept separately and no other species is stalled or penned with the cattle.
  • The milking cows are the only animals allowed in the  parlor, specifically, chickens and pigs are penned well away and are not able to escape out into the milking area.
  • We have very secure perimeter fence made of 4 foot no climb fencing with a hot wire on the top.  This protects our cattle from outside predators.

17.) We drink the milk too!

  • The number one benefit of having milk cows on the property is that we get milk! The last bottle of milk for the day rarely is filled to the top, so it goes in our own personal fridge.  This means that every single day the milk that is being milked and sold to you is also being consumed by our children.  Thus, we take our milking very seriously every single day.

18.)  We compost all manure waste on the farm.

  • Keeping cows allows us to collect and use the manure they produce for the increased fertility of our own garden.  Our manure is stacked, and turned as it composts down into a valuable soil amendment in our own garden.

Raw milk is a very beneficial and nutritious food.  It is full of living bacteria but can also, in reality, contain harmful pathogens.  These pathogens can potentially make healthy people sick, but especially pose a threat to infants, small children, the elderly and the immunocompromised.  If you are new to raw milk, please start slowly.  Culture your milk into yogurt and ease into drinking the uncultured milk.  We have worked hard to set up a system that ensures that our milk is clean and is of very high quality.  Please do take the time to read and understand what the risks are and what we do to prevent them.  We are open to any comments or complaints from our customers.

Enjoy your milk!

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Cast Iron Farm Milk FAQ’s

We are committed to producing clean, high-quality milk for you.  Here are some FAQ’s to help you understand our system.

Milk Subscription: We are now selling our milk on a pre-reserved, subscription basis.  We ask that our customers make a commitment to buy a pre-determined amount of milk one day each week.  For example, you tell us that you want a gallon of milk a week, and you want to get milk on Friday.  Each Friday we will milk the cows and put a gallon of milk from that day in the milk fridge labelled with your name on it.  All of the milk in the fridge is pre-reserved.  We do not allow sales of milk that have not been previously reserved.  This allows us to know exactly who is getting milk on a specific day and what day each the milk in the fridge was milked.  Conversely, with this system, you are never going to drive out to the farm and discover that there is not milk for you in the fridge.

Self Service: Jared, Christine, George and the kids all work on the farm full-time, and there will likely be someone around when you come to get your milk.  That said, the milk pick up is a self-service, honor system.  You do not need to check in with a farmer when you get your milk.  Feel free to say hello if you would like.  However, please respect that this is our home and our place of business, we are not always able to put down what we are doing for a chat.

Jar Size: We bottle our milk in ½ gallon glass jars with a plastic lid.  Thus, you can buy milk in ½ gallon increments.  One jar is a ½ gallon and two jars are 1 gallon, three are 1 ½ gallons, etc.

Payment:  As our milk is being bought on a subscription basis, we ask for payment only once per month.  On your first pick up of the month, your milk will have an invoice on it for your milk for the entire month (remember that some months have 5 weeks, and thus 5 pick ups).  You can pay the invoice throughout the month whenever it is convenient for you.  We happily take checks made out to “Cast Iron Farm.”  Cash is also acceptable.  If necessary, we can run debit/credit cards, but we prefer not to.

Milk Pick-Up: Since we milk the cows every day of the week, we have milk pick-ups available every day.  When you sign up for milk, you sign up to get the milk that was milked the morning of your pickup day.  The milk will be in our milk fridge with your name on it.  Please note that Oregon law requires that you pick up your raw milk from the farm, so we cannot deliver.  The good news is that we are close to town and are a convenient drive for many.`

Jar Etiquette: Cast Iron Farm owns the milk jars.  Currently, we provide these jars for your use free of charge.  Please practice good jar etiquette.  These jars circulate around our raw milk community.  A jar you return this week will have another family’s milk in it next week.  Likewise, your jar was in another home just last week.  We know how handy those half gallon jars can be. However, due to the incidence of food allergies and possible contamination from other fermentation, we ask that you keep the milk jars separate from your own personal stash.  Do not store any other food in them and definitely don’t use them to make kombucha or sauerkraut.  Please wash the jars after you have emptied them.  The dishwasher is best.  If you lack a dishwasher, please rinse them out well and DO NOT PUT ON THE LID unless all the water has been drained from the jar.  Wet jars can sometimes mold on the lid, and the mold is almost impossible to completely remove.  Also, try to not forget your empty bottles at home.  We realize that this happens occasionally, but please do not make a habit of it.  Store your jars away from where pets can get to them (dogs love to chew on the lids). If you break a jar or a lid, please consider donating for its replacement.  The jars cost $3 each.  Taking good care of the milk jars helps keep the cost of your milk down.

Transporting Milk: We try to keep our customer base in the Mcminnville area.  We do this for two reasons.  1.) We like to get to know our milk customers and our community. 2.) Raw milk only stays safe if you transport it safely.  Bacteria in milk grows incrementally faster as the temperature increases.  The growth is slow in fridge temperatures, but as the milk is being transported, it warms slowly, and the bacteria grows more quickly as the milk warms.  This contributes to lessening the shelf life of you milk.  Pick up your milk as your last errand, and if you live beyond the Mcminnville area, or getting your milk is not your last errand, bring a cooler  to transport your milk in.  We provide ice free of charge in our creamery.

Milk Shelf Life: Raw milk is a little bit different than pasteurized milk.  Pasteurized milk can last longer on the shelf than raw milk, but it’s completely devoid of good bacteria.  The shelf life of raw milk depends on your fridge temperature.  If it is turned down to be cold (around 34 degrees), the milk should last through the week and as long as two or three weeks.  Check your fridge temperature to make sure that it is cold.  The cooler the fridge, the longer the milk shelf life.  Store your milk in the bottom of the fridge, not in the door.  However, when raw milk goes “bad” it is not actually bad.  Unless the milk was exposed to an outside bacteria, “bad” raw milk is simply called clabber or buttermilk.  It can be used in cooking as you would use yogurt.  Honestly, we almost never have milk go bad, and when it does, we cook with it.  However, please do discard any milk that has an unpleasant odor or taste.

Need extras? Call us if you are needing extra milk for a project, and we can usually accommodate.

Goat/Sheep Milk: Though we occasionally milk goats and sheep for our personal cheesemaking projects, we are not legally allowed to sell milk from more than one species.

The cream: Raw, unhomogenized milk has cream on top!  It takes about 24 hours for the cream to settle out of the milk.  You might see a cream line starting to form in about 12 hours, but the milk is really settled at 24 hours.  Our cows usually give about 25% cream, so feel free to skim it to make butter or to put in your coffee.  You can also just shake the jar back up and drink your milk whole.  Whole milk you find in the grocery store is at 3.25% butterfat.  Our cows produce between 4% and 4.5%, so if you do decide to skim the cream, the milk that is left is still analogous to the whole milk you would find in the grocery store.

Plastic Lids: We like using the ½ gallon jars, but the lids are a bit of a problem.  The metal lids that usually come on canning jars are coated with a BPA plastic that we don’t like touching our milk.  Instead, we use plastic lids that are BPA free, but they do occasionally leak.  If you tighten your lids before you leave, they tend not to leak, but occasionally they do.  If this is a problem, talk to us, as there are a few solutions.

Sterilization: We sterilize all our milking equipment every day, including our milk jars.  This is for our safety and for yours.  We take great care to ensure our milk is fresh and clean.  Please do return clean jars to us, but do know that we will also sterilize them for use in the future.

Thank You: We enjoy milking our cows very much, and we appreciate the opportunity to provide milk for our community.  Thank you for supporting our farm and raw milk in Oregon.

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Cast Iron Farm Milking Parlor

The milking parlor is where the magic happens.  The cows come into the parlor once per day.  Our parlor was thoughtfully designed with many features that make it easy to milk cows the correct way.  We have hot water set to 150 degrees to clean our equipment in the parlor.  The waste water is taken out of the parlor by a floor drain that leads out into our drain field.  All of the sanitary supplies are lined up and easy to identify.  The milk machine is mounted to the wall of the parlor so that it is in easy view to monitor that it is milking at 11-12 pounds of pressure.  We really love milking in this parlor.

Milking Parlor--Cow Side

This is where the cows walk in for milking.  They each have a feed pan to munch out of during milking time.  The hose hanging on the wall is directly attached to the water heater.  This beautiful concrete pad has grooves in it so that the cows don’t slip on it.  It is also graded so that the water drains fully out of the parlor, with no puddling.

Milking Parlor--Machine Side

This is the view of the parlor looking the other way.  The floor drain sits right in front of the feed bins.  All of the sanitation equipment is in easy reach for the milker to grab at the right time.    The pump is mounted on the wall on the right.  This makes it very easily accessible.  On the post in the middle hangs the cleaning system that runs several gallons of water with sterilizer in it before the milker is put onto the cows.  It also cleans out the milking claw after the cows have all been milked.

All in all, the parlor is a well organized space, that works very well for our goal of creating clean, nutritious milk.

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Now Meet Our Cows

Willow

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Willow is our resident Brown Swiss. We have had Brown Swiss cows in the past, and the second that we met Willow, we knew that she fit the typical Brown Swiss description: sweet, laid-back and gentle. Willow is our top producer, and she gets the love and attention she deserves as our quiet herd queen.

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Beef Cows

We keep a small herd of beef cows on our farm.  These cows have given us some wonderful breeding stock as well as some meat for the freezer.

Daisee

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Daisee is a beautiful light roan.  She was an AI cow and is a 3/4 sister to our Fancee.  Our cows were raised on a diet mostly of leftover vegetables from the garden, and Daisee especially, loves to eat vegetables. Daisee has a quiet personality and enjoys eating, so she’d rather graze than be petted and talked to.

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Fancee

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Fancee is our big sweetheart. She is Daisee’s 3/4 sister and they like to hang out together. Fancee was named because she is wearing her “fancy” high stockings on her back legs. She loves to be  scratched and is quite possibly the nicest cow we have ever met.

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Calves

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Each cow gives us a calf each year, and it’s always fun to see what we end up with.  Pictured here is Huckle,  Fancee’s first daughter and the very first calf born at Cast Iron Farm.   Huckle has gone off to be a family milker here in Yamhill County.  New calves are the best part of our farming job.

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