There’s a lot more that goes into a glass of milk than one might think. The journey from grass to glass is truly fascinating. Everything from what our cows eat, to how their food is digested, to how we bottle our milk all play a large role in the quality of our products. But, it all comes back around to our beautiful cows.

Grass

At Shetler Dairy, our mission is to bring you the healthiest and tastiest products from our cows. Our philosophy is that healthy soil produces healthy food, which nurtures healthy animals, and that leads to high-quality products. During the summer months (May-September) our cows feed almost exclusively on grass from our pastures. We do supplement their diet with a few pounds of grain each day. During the winter months, our cows are fed mainly dry baled hay and wet haylage. They also receive a few pounds of grain per day during the winter months.

You can find out why we believe in implementing grain into our cow’s diet here.

The grass that our cows feed on during the summer months is 100% free of any herbicides and pesticides. The only fertilizer used on our land is composted cow manure. Why is this important? It goes back to providing you with the best and healthiest milk as possible. Once our cows eat their grass, their stomachs begin their work of turning their food into milk.

Digestion

Cows belong to a group of animals called ruminants. Ruminants are animals that have four stomach compartments that play different roles in the digestion of food. The four stomach compartments are: the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. Cows begin the milk making process by half-chewing their grass before swallowing it into her first stomach – rumen. The grass mixes with water in the rumen and is then broken down by stomach juices and microbes. Once broken down the grass then enters reticulum. Once in the reticulum the grass is softened and made into small wads calls cuds. The cuds then return up to the cow’s mouth where it is then again chewed for about one minute. Cows then swallow the cuds into the omasum compartment of their stomach. There, it is pressed to remove water and broken down even further. Finally, the cud enters the fourth stomach compartment, the abomasum, is digested. The digested grass then passes through the small intestine where essential nutrients stay to keep cows strong and healthy.

The nutrients the cows receive from eating the grass are then turned into milk by four mammary glands in the udder after about 2 or 3 days. Once the nutrients have turned to milk, the cows are then ready then to produce the milk.

Milk and Bottling Process

Once our cows are ready to be milked, they are milked by the machines we have on the farm. Typically, a cow can be milked twice a day. Our cows produce, on average, 5.5 gallons of milk per day, but we do have a couple of cows that can produce up to 8 or 9 gallons! Once we have the milk from our cows, it goes through a low-temperature pasteurization process. Nearly all large milk corporations put their milk through an ultra-high temperature pasteurization process as well a homogenization process. For numerous reasons we don’t homogenize our milk, and you can find those answers here in an earlier blog post. Our milk only goes through low-temp pasteurization.

The final step in grass to glass is the bottling process. We bottle of all our milk right here on the farm. We only use glass bottles, and when our bottles are empty, they are cleaned and reused. The bottling process is unique, and you can find out more about our process here.

Shetler Dairy Farm

At Shetler Dairy Farm we are committed to providing you with milk and other products that are as close to their natural state as legally possible. You can find a variety of different products at locations all over northern Michigan. Head over to the locations page to find our milk, ice cream, and other products at a location nearest to you, and don’t forget to stop by the farm next time you’re in Kalkaska.

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