At one time, many rural families milked at least one cow to supply their families needs of milk and butter. Today, most people purchase their milk from a supermarket.
Christine Hampshire, owner of Cross E Dairy in Leiter, Wyoming, said, “Raw milk is a super food. It has everything we need nutritionally. I grew up drinking raw milk, and prefer it to pasteurized milk. Many people with lactose intolerance can drink raw milk with no problems. Supermarket milk is almost a processed food, pasteurization and homogenization, while making the milk safe to drink, kill many of the benefits of real milk.”
According to the RealMilk.com website, raw milk contains many components that kill pathogens and strengthen the immune system. Cows that provided the best raw milk should be eating food appropriate to cows, which is mostly grass, hay or silage, with only a small amount of grain, if any. The milk should be full-fat milk, as many important anti-microbial and health-supporting components are in the fat.
Cross E Dairy feeds the milk cows very little grain, used as a treat for the cow while she is being milked. Mostly they are on pasture of fed alfalfa hay, which Hampshire raise themselves. “We know exactly what they are eating. The little bit of grain we feed is barley grain, which is GMO free. Our milk is GMO free.”
Hampshire said that she milks five cows at present, but has a total of 16 and she has the Normande breed, which is a dual purpose from France. The early breed founders made their genetic selections based on milk production and meat production. For dairy producers, Normande cows fed a high forage grazing ration will average between 14,000-18,000 pounds of milk per lactation with 3.6% protein and 4.4% butterfat.
“I began researching dairy breeds in 2012 when our family cow went dry,” Hampsire said. “I read about the Normande, and the fact that it was a very hardy breed, and does well in our climate and keep in good body condition on pasture. I found a breeder in Wisconsion and purchased my first seven calves.”
“At first the milk was just for my family, but neighbors and friends began asking if they could buy milk from me. It was made easier in 2015, when Wyoming passed the Freedom Food Act, where consumers could purchase many food products direct from the producer.” The Cross E Dairy sells milk, and her family also markets Angus beef. “Beef producers can sell Wyoming inspected beef within Wyoming, but to sell it in other states it has to be USDA.” In this area there is one meat packing plant that does state inspected beef, but recently another opened in Sheridan, which will package USDA approved beef, Hampshire said.
In breeding the cattle, Hampshire uses AI, her husband, Shane, is experienced in AI breeding, and she said she uses sex-sorted semen, or sexed semen, is a reproductive technology that allows cattle producers to generate calves of the desired sex to fit their market and herd needs. With about 90% accuracy, sexed semen allows producers to effectively choose whether a mating results in a bull or heifer calf. “Using this technique, I get mostly heifer calves.” Hampshire said.
Eventually, Hampshire wants to try Normande beef, but at this point she doesn’t have enough cattle to butcher any. For beef producers, Normandes have become known for their high quality carcasses and tasty meat. The average 1250 pound Normande steer has a quality grade of 90% low choice or higher, 765 pound hot carcass weight, 13.5 in. ribeye area, 0.25 in. back fat, 2.0% KPH fat and a 2.2 yield grade score.
She would also like to raise enough to sell the heifers to other rural residents who want their own milk cow. “People have asked about buying them. They are a great family cow, and have a good disposition.”
One thing Hampshire is very careful about is cleanliness. “I wash and sanitize the udders with soap and water and an ‘udder wash’, the milking machine is stainless steel and cleaned and sterilized after each milking. Milk is stored in a cold water bath at 35-degrees to keep it fresh.” It isn’t always an easy life, as the cows have to milked morning and night, but Hampshire likes to job.
Hampshire has four children, and she and her husband home school them. Faryn, 14, helps her mother with the milking if Christian has to be away, or needs and extra hand. The other children help with feeding and cleaning.” Hampshire said it is important that people visit with producers to see exactly where their food comes from. She said many people have misconceptions of about the dairy industry. A small, family dairy is completely different from a large confinement facility. Like the misconception she said she encountered at one time, when a person just assumed that the bull calves were killed. Bull calves can be sold to other breeders, or sold as after they are grown. “I also leave the calves to nurse on the mothers as long as possible. If I need to milk the cow more, if I have a demand for more milk, I have nurse cows to raise the calves.”
Hampshire did farmers markets for a time, but now most milk is sold through Cross E Dairy and Freedom Foods store in Sheridan, which her sister-in-law, Shawn Hampshire, runs. The store sells milk and other local produce, such as herbs and honey, jellies, and beef. It is located at 110 South Main.
“The store has provided a lot of convenience,” Hampshire said. “The milk goes from my dairy in a cooler, straight to a cooler at the store. It is more convenient for the customers as well.”