Our cows keep their calves, nursing and raising them as nature intended.
Cows produce milk, first and foremost, to feed their calves. Cows care deeply for their calves and when allowed they form a tight emotional bond. Raised with the herd, calves learn from their mommas and herd matriarchs the social rules of the herd, as well as how to graze, learning which plants are the tastiest and most nutritious. Raised of their own mother's milk they grow healthier and stronger.
It is the unfortunate reality that on the vast majority of dairy farms calves are removed form their mothers in the first hours to days of life, on Organic dairies they receive milk in bottles or buckets from the bulk tank, and on large scale dairies they are frequently fed milk replacer instead.
WHY DON'T ALL FARMS LET COWS RAISE THEIR OWN CALVES?
To understand the situation, you really need to look to the dairy industry as whole. Largely, the dairy system in this country is dysfunctional. We have farmers, who for decades now, have not been paid a fair price for their milk. Frequently the cost of producing the milk exceeds the income derived from selling it, and while the costs of running a dairy continues to increase, milk prices have barely risen and some years have even declined.
For the farmer to survive, she has to focus on getting the most amount of milk from each cow. Calves who are allowed to nurse from their mothers drink much more milk then a calf being bottle fed twice a day and fed grain to supplement, leaving less milk for the farmer to sell. In addition dairies are built based on this model. Milking stanchions, cow lanes, fencing and housing have not been designed to accommodate cows with calves, often it would be impossible and even dangerous for a farm to simply begin integrating calves into their herd. A complete overhaul of infrastructure would be required to make that happen. With current milk prices, that overhaul would be prohibitively expensive.
We didn't grow up farming, and our first cow was a family cow, so our initial experiences with cows where not enveloped in the complexities of dairy farming for profit. Separated from that paradigm, we began dairying in the ways that made sense to us. We didn't have to worry about making money from our family cow, and she produced far more milk than our family could drink, so logically there was no need to separate her calf at birth. The bond between June and her calf was intense and beautiful, and on only her milk and pasture he grew amazingly fast, strong and healthy.
When we decided to shift our farming focus to milking cows, it was impossible to ignore what we now knew to be true. Luckily cows give plenty of milk to share, and while our milk is much much more expensive to produce under this model, "value-adding" the milk into high quality yogurt, kefir, and ice cream we can make more money than we could selling milk alone, allowing us to survive with less milk from each cow. Of course that means we spend more time in the creamery, but it's an exchange that feels worthwhile to farm in a way that feels respectful to animals we share our lives with. We hope that consumers will value this as well.