Maine’s Artisan Cheese Rise

May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015

Maine is experiencing a growth in artisan cheese making that has the slow food community there optimistic about the economic viability of small dairy farms today. Fluid milk prices for dairy farms have dropped drastically in the past years making it very hard for small/medium farms to make a viable wage selling commercial milk. Value added products, like cheese, offer farmers a way to take their raw product and shape it, quite literally, into a more valuable product.

The dairy industry in Maine has been hit hard in recent years, as mirrored by the rest of the country. The state had over 500 dairies in 2000. Today the count is closer to 250. In contrast the state has received 37 cheese making licence requests from Maine dairy farms this year. More dairies are exploring the possibilities of cheese and the higher profit margins to be made from such value added product.

To read more about one Maine farm’s journey from milk to cheese making read this article:

For all of your cheesemaking supplies visit these wonderful and helpful websites:

Bob White Cheese Making

New England Cheese Making Supply Company

Mountain Feed and Farm Supply

Hoegger Supply Company



Changes at AMD

April 20, 2015
April 20, 2015

Here at AMD we will be undergoing some changes in the coming months. We are expanding our mission to include support of research and education of the micro dairy world. In this vain we will be incorporating a local milk testing lab and a small cow dairy barn into our non-profit. The lab will offer tests of raw milk to the public and in conjunction with the dairy barn will serve as a research center for our organization. This year we will begin offering micro dairy classes, including ones on cheese-making and small dairy basics.  With this increased focus on dairy education and research we will be changing the name of our organization to better reflect our new role in the dairy world. Beginning June 1st, 2015 we will be known as the Alternative Dairy Institute (ADI). You will still be able to find us on the same Facebook page, physical address, and webpage. We welcome the change and we are excited to grow into an institute of learning and research in support of small dairies everywhere.

Craig Ramini dies at 57

April 14, 2015
April 14, 2015

courtesy of the New York Times

It is with heavy hearts that we tell you we lost one of our board members this year, Craig Ramini. Craig died of complications to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this past January. Craig was a water buffalo cheese maker and farmer in Northern California. We valued the time and effort he gave to American Micro Dairies. He will be missed.

Craig was only recently a farmer. He was a Silicon Valley consultant for many years until, unsatisfied with his work he took a sabbatical.  As Sam Roberts writes for the Times : “For six months, he methodically affixed Post-its to his dining room wall listing his passions. Finally, he narrowed them down to five: being around animals, laboring outdoors, working with food (his grandfather, an Italian immigrant, had owned a restaurant in Connecticut), doing something unique and being an entrepreneur.”

This yielded a life switch to, of all things, water buffalo farming and producing mozzarella from their milk. We should all be so lucky to slow down and reassess our lives as Craig had.

You can read his obituary in the  New York Times. The Times also wrote a piece on him and his buffalo mozzarella in 2012.

Thank you Craig for your inspiration to dairy farmers everywhere and for your guidance with American Micro Dairies.

Lose for Raw Milk in West Virginia

April 6, 2015
April 6, 2015

Disappointed to report that the West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a bill last week ( that would have allowed for raw milk herd sharing programs. Citing food safety risks he said he could not allow it. Odd isn’t it that raw seafood, raw eggs, alcohol and cigarettes are all legally sold everywhere in this country so long as they have the requisite warnings but raw milk is labeled too dangerous in most states for even the same status as those “dangerous” consumables.

It is estimated that 480,000 people die annually in the US from tobacco related illnesses. 88,000 deaths are attributed to alcohol each year. 2 people have died in the US since 1998 from drinking raw milk. Think about it.


AMD in Support of Tail Docking Ban

March 9, 2015
March 9, 2015

February 24th was Humane Lobby Day in Montpelier, Vermont. It was a day where concerned citizens met with lawmakers to urge advancement of various animal welfare legislation. One particular piece of legislation that has been in legislative purgatory since early 2013 is a bill to prohibit the practice of tail docking of cows. That legislation doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

Tail docking is the process of taking off most of the tail of a cow, typically a dairy cow. The idea behind this being that tails are a collection point for manure and mud and a tailless cow would thus be cleaner at milking.   The problem with this practice is tri-fold; it is painful, it is unnecessary, and it is has lasting, inhumane, effects.

Nearly 80% of North American dairies are said to practice tail docking. Most commonly the practice is done right before or after a heifer calves. It is most commonly done with a rubber band. The rubber band cuts off the oxygen supply and the necrotic tail will either be left to fall off or can be then cut off by the farmer. Emasculators (used to crush bull testicles for castration) and cauterizing docking irons are also used but not with the same frequency.  Tail docking using any of these methods is painful. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) published a paper in August of 2014 measuring the benefits and concerns of tail docking. They concluded their report that  “increased temperature sensitivity and the presence of neuromas suggest that chronic pain may be associated with the procedure.”

The AVMA report also suggests that the painful practice is unnecessary citing that cleaner cows can be obtained with lower stocking density and cleaner bedding for the cattle. Anecdotally;  a Vermont dairy farmer Mark Magnan who was interviewed by WCAX  discontinued the practice on his farm four years ago. He maintains that so long as you keep the tail of the cow trimmed the cow and her milk remain clean.

The final and perhaps the most infuriating result of a docked tail is its new defenseless status against the onslaught of summer flies. If you have any experience with cows in the summer you know they are fly magnets. Farmers try all methods of fly fighting from the organic to conventional to permaculture. No matter the efforts you cannot banish flies entirely from your farm of Cow and Manure. If you have any experience yourself with being in the hot sun and a fly lands upon you your natural inclination is to bat it away with a hand. Imagine if you had no hand, but you had a tail. You would swish away with your tail. Now imagine you had no hand, no tail. You just had to endure the slow torture of flies landing upon you and even biting you. That is life for a cow without a tail. That is where the true inhumanity lies in this practice.

Let cows be cows. From head to tail.

A Cold Tall Glass of News

March 9, 2015
March 9, 2015

Here at American Micro Dairies we read about milk news all week long. Only a small percentage of the stories we read find their way onto our blog or Facebook. So we are beginning a new, weekly, series for the blog. A round -up of the previous week’s milk news. A healthy and nutritious way to start your week; every Monday.

Happy milking.

** South Dakota passes a raw milk bill aimed at clarifying the current raw milk law. This bill will permit both the purchase of raw milk on farm and at farmer’s markets (if the customer has prepaid). Governor Dauggard is expected to sign it into law.

** The Utah House passed a bill to allow cow-sharing for raw milk. Now it goes to the state senate for a debate and vote.

** West Virginia raw milk bill continues its way through the state legislature. It cleared the House Health and Human Resources Committee on Thursday  and now onto the House of Delegates.

** Maine is experiencing a milk licence boom which they attribute to raw milk and small cheese producers.

** Texas House Bill 91 which would  allow raw milk to be sold off farm is gaining attention. State Representative Susan King doesn’t imagine it will be discussed in the legislature anytime soon but says “I feel that if a consumer is consuming a legal substance, i.e. raw milk, and they would like to have more availability to purchase it, and the people producing raw milk, or making it available are willing to do that, I don’t know why the government would say no.”  Can’t argue with that.

Baby Steps to Raw Milk legalization in Oregon

March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015

Raw milk producers in Oregon have reason to rejoice.  The state senate there is moving to quickly pass a bill that would make it lawful for raw milk producers to advertise their product. It is currently prohibited.

The bill (HB 2446) will, in its own words, “Delete prohibition against advertising by unregulated producer engaged in small-scale on-premises sale of raw milk directly to consumer”.

Oregon is one of 30 states that allow for the sale of raw milk. The Oregon law restricts this sale to On-Farm sales only and limits the farmers to 2 cows in production. They simultaneously prohibited any advertising of raw milk.

Christine Anderson, a raw milk producer and farmer in McMinnville, Oregon had her raw milk prices listed on her farm’s website. In 2012 the Oregon Department of Agriculture told her that she was in violation of the law and that the prices must be removed or she would face fines or jail time. Anderson in response brought a suit against the state saying that the advertising prohibition was unconstitutional; a violation of her right to free speech. Her raw milk, was after all a lawful product to sell under Oregonian law.

There appears to be no opposition of the bill in the state senate and it is expected to move swiftly through the legislature. This bill addresses only the advertising prohibition and will not be attempting other changes to the state’s raw milk law.



New Raw Milk Bill to be introduced to Vermont Legislature

February 23, 2015
February 23, 2015

Barnard, Vt Representative Teo Zagar will introduce a new raw milk bill to the legislature in the coming weeks. The aim of the bill according to Rural Vermont is to “to expand economic opportunity and create fairness for raw milk producers as well as expand choice and access for raw milk customers”.

The bill aims to amend the current Vermont Raw Milk Law which can be found here. It proposes 8 amendments to the current law. These proposed amendments range from labeling on the milk jars, testing raw milk and the distribution of raw milk.

There are several changes in particular that American Micro-Dairies supports on the proposed bill:

1. The proposed bill would permit the sale of value-added dairy products: cheese aged 60 days or more, cream, skim milk, butter, kefir, and yogurt (all Tiers). Currently it is unlawful in Vermont to sell any value added dairy product made of raw milk.

2. The proposed bill would change the wording of the labels placed on each jar sold  of raw milk. Currently the bill requires the label reads:

“This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause illness particularly in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems and in pregnant women can cause illness, miscarriage or fetal death, or death of a newborn.”

Zagar’s proposal changes the wording to:

“Unpasteurized (Raw) Milk. Not pasteurized. Keep refrigerated. Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to health. If handled improperly, raw milk may be harmful to health. Raw milk must be kept at 40 degrees or less at all times.”

The proposed labeling recognizes the risk of consuming a raw product but does not resort to scare tactics and sensationalism. It is a more unbiased label that does not aim to hurt the raw milk producer but rather only to keep the consumer informed of risk.

4. The proposed bill would increase of the allowed weekly production of raw milk for both Tier I producers (up to 100 gallons) and Tier II producers (to more than 100 gallons with no limit).  Currently the limits of production are 87.5 gallons and 280 gallons per week respectively. The increase in production would present significant economic gains for raw milk producers.

Parts of the proposed bill cause concern at American Micro-Dairies. Specifically the proposed change of  the bi-monthly testing standard for somatic cell count from 225,000/ml for cows and 500,000/ml for goats to a monthly testing standard of 400,000/ml for cows and 750,000/ml for goats for Tier II producers. Somatic cell counts are integral to determining the health of the lactating animal. The proposed higher counts would be much closer to the counts that are cause for concern for the health of the animal.

If you live in Vermont and would like to see this bill acquire more representative co-sponsors Rural Vermont is asking for your help by 4pm tomorrow (2/24/15). They are asking you to call your representative and urge their support of the bill.


West Virginia Moves Towards Passing Raw Milk Legislation

February 23, 2015
February 23, 2015

This past Friday (2/20/15) the West Virginia state senate narrowly (18 to 16) passed legislation that would allow its residents to participate in cow sharing operations to drink raw milk. A cow sharing arrangement allows for multiple families to “buy” a cow and hire a farmer to care for and milk said cow. Because the families own the cow they are then allowed to consume her milk. Typically the farmer already has and milks said cow and then finds families to pay for the cow and thus the milk upfront. It is much like how a CSA model funds vegetables farms.  Most anti-raw milk legislation surrounds selling the milk and not around drinking milk from your own cow.   Many states don’t formally acknowledge the legality of the cow sharing practice and so farms have been operating in the legal grey area of this loop hole to anti raw milk legislation. Now West Virginia is moving to formally acknowledge and legalize this practice. Currently, Colorado, Indiana, Wyoming and Ohio are the only states that legally permit cow sharing. To see an articulate example of cow sharing in the “field” visit the website of Colorado farm James Ranch. Their webpage has a cost breakdown of the program, boarding contract, herd health, bill of sale, and dairy operation standards. The West Virginia bill next moves to the House of Delegates. Stay tuned West Virginians!

Dairy Diaries: Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy, Part 4.

August 19, 2014
August 19, 2014


Welcome to Rock Paper Scissor’s last installment of Dairy Diaries. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about their experiences running a small goat dairy in Cummington, MA. We encourage you to reach out to them if you’re ever in the area so you can try some of their fresh goat’s milk. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can donate to their operation here. Thanks for reading, and we look forward to continuing the Dairy Diary series by hearing from more awesome micro-dairy farmers around the country!


Expect the Unexpected!

About a week ago, Angie and I were getting ready to sit down to dinner with everyone from the homestead, and someone shouted out that one of our goats was in the road!  We were pretty shocked because Angie had just milked and put everyone in their evening enclosure.  And when we did a quick headcount, sure enough, everyone was accounted for– thank goodness!

There is a community spirit that is present in this lovely little town of Cummington, MA, and it is the kind of thing I hope I never take for granted.  During dinner two other neighbors drove up to let us know one of our goats was in the road, and we thanked them and gave our assurance that it wasn’t our goat.  I have to say, it was pretty amazing to have three separate sets of folks (all of whom we’d never met before) take the time to help with a lost animal.

Just before dessert, a little black and white doeling ran right up to our herd.  Meet Trouble!

Trouble the goat

Trouble stayed with us ten whole days before we found her people.  We called her Trouble affectionately, but there was no doubt in our minds how she ended up wandering the streets– that little goat can jump!  She kept us on our toes for sure.  We called around to other farms and neighbors, put the word out of the internet, and even put up “Goat Found!” flyers around town.

It turns out, she jumped out of a car while being transported to her new home.  She walked/ran/jumped about for an amazing 7.5 miles to get to our farm!  So even if she is fairly mischievous, you’ve got to admire the tenacity in that smart little goat.  We were happy to have a visitor for a few days, glad to reunite Trouble with her owners, and grateful to the experience to remind us that this is what small-scale farming is about.  It’s about knowing your neighbors, making connections, and keeping each other and our creatures safe when things go awry.