Located just outside of Shepparton in Wunghnu, Victoria is a little farm called How Now Dairy. The meagre size of the farm is important, as we’ll soon learn. Run by Cathy Palmer, How Now and its herd of ‘happy cows’ are swimming against the current when it comes to dairy production in Australia. With seemingly boundless expanses of cattle country in Australia, the inclination is and has been, to ‘go bigger’ – producing thousands of liters of milk that is sometimes sold cheaper than water.
Cathy has a decidedly different approach and believes the big-dairy industry as a whole has lost sight of what’s important; namely the welfare of the animal, and the undeniably superior milk that emerges when this is ensured. Operating out of a single 370-acre farm and pledging to keep her herd below 100 cows, Cathy has more of a ‘go smaller’ ethos – preferring to focus her attention on a herd of manageable size. The welfare of her animals comes first, these are truly happy cows!
By adopting a biologically-oriented method of farming, How Now maintain soil fertility through paddock rotation, which promotes thick verdant pastures, which promotes optimal nutrition in the grazing herd, and thus rich, healthy milk. It’s a simple but necessary science, and one oft forgotten. The farm does this without the use of pesticides – instead working with the micro-organisms in their soil to foster a healthy ecosystem. Working with nature, not against it.
Another example of How Now’s unique approach is their treatment of bobby calves (male juveniles) and calves in general. In commercial dairy, the young are separated from their mothers within days of being born and either sent to a nursing herd or sold into the veal industry for slaughter. This widespread practice puts immense emotional distress on the mother and the calves alike, and the slaughter of days-old infant calves is deplorably inhumane. How Now do it differently. When a mother gives birth, her calf has first pick of her milk and the two aren’t separated. They are free to eat, sleep and play together until the calf can be naturally weaned. They stay on the farm till they reach well into adolescence at around 3 years of age.
With an unparalleled pasture diet, the How Now herd only consume grain when milking and it accounts for less than 25% of their diet – meaning that the nutrient profile for the milk is rich in fats and proteins. This is identifiable in the flavour and texture of the milk – it’s rich, creamy and pure tasting. As soon as it’s milked, it goes straight through the pasteurizer (for a shorter time and at a lower temperature than conventional milk) and is immediately hand-bottled. The milk is also not homogenised – a process which disrupts the tiny fat clusters – or micelles – in the milk which give the full cream its velvety texture.
With her ‘quality over quantity’ approach to micro-dairy production, Cathy’s farm is the true epitome of an ‘un-homogenous’ operation.
Knowing where our milk comes from and how it comes to us is so reassuring. And we’re thrilled to be a part of How Now’s imperative to ‘go small’.
How Now is now available at Cannings in Kew, Hawthorn, Malvern and South Yarra. Or if you want it delivered it’s on our online store too!