The Cornucopia Insitute is an organization that performs research and investigations on agricultural issues, and engages in educational activities that support the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Their website offers a number of "Scorecards" rating the organic food industry on its agricultural practices. You can find their Dairy Scorecard here:
While Calder Dairy is not certified organic, they are an important supplier of local dairy products. We wanted to know how Calder would respond to the issues raised by Cornucopia.org. Ypsi Food Co-op spoke to Nicky at Calder Dairy Farm in early June 2012:
YFC: What is your ownership structure? Family or shareholders?
Nicki: Calder is completely family owned.
YFC: Total acreage? Number of cows?
Nicki: Calder has 600 acres, owned & leased; we have 154 cows total, including those being milked, heifers, bulls, and those on "maternity leave." (Before calving, 20 or so cows are not milked while carrying, during their last couple months.)
YFC: Do you have organic certification? Why/why not?
Nicki: Calder is not certified; we can’t afford to allow our fields to lie fallow for three years to recover from chemical use. Some herbicides are used for weeds on crops; but we use them in no higher concentration than for home use.
YFC: What about pasture -- how many cows per acre? Type of forage? Other feed?
Nicki: All hay and all corn is grown on the property for supplementary feed. Our cows live in a free stall barn, meaning they can move about, socialize, and always have an opportunity to go outside on pasture daily. Cows have mattresses of extruded rubber with a cloth cover topped by straw - 1 in every stall. The feed alley has a rubber edge the cows stand on so that their hooves are not always on concrete. Cows are not pastured outdoors in winter.
YFC: Do you confine cows when lactating?
Nicki: Cows don’t nurse their calves. Weaning would be hard, and milk production goes down, won’t let down for the milking machine. Calves get pasteurized milk from a bottle.
YFC: How many replacement heifers have you purchased in past two years? How many sent to slaughter?
Nicki: We don't buy heifers – Calder produces their own heifers. Younger heifers may be bought for 4-H shows by the children, but later they become milk cows.
YFC: Antibiotic use? Hormone treatments?
Nicki: RBST is not used, routine antibiotics – no. Antibiotics are used only in response to illnesses like mastitis. In that case, the cow is pulled out of the milking string – that milk goes to pigs. They are put on “Milk hold, meat hold” (referring to a minimum number of days that the milk is held out, as required by the USDA). Calder tests milk at their Lincoln Park facility to make sure there is no trace of antibiotics remaining before returning the recovered cow to the milking string.
YFC: Do you buy dairy products? EG powder, whey, milk protein concentrate, cheese, butterfat, buttermilk, other? If so, from where?
Nicki: Cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream etc. are all made from Calder milk –- our ice cream is made & hand-packed on the farm.