For the past year or so, we have been in a transitioning from a pasture-based model, where the cows got some grain during winter, to a 99% grass fed dairy. That is a slow transition. Going purely grass fed is both an adjustment for the cows, and for the farmer, who must monitor his cows to see how they are adjusting, and plan appropriately to grow and harvest enough hay for the winter months.
Cows adjusted to grain give more milk, so our grass fed model requires more cows to maintain the volume of milk needed to make our cheeses. In the name of balance, we decided to introduce a few new cows to the herd; ten hearty Friesians with A2A2 genetics.
What are A2A2 genetics, you ask?
It seems that hundreds of years ago there was a mutation in a gene that changed the nature of the proteins in cows’ milk. Now, this was a long time ago, but over generations this A1 mutation predominated in Europe and the US, while the original A2 cows continued to thrive in Africa and Asia.
Fast forward to today. There are many claims about the digestibility and health detriments/benefits of A2 milk versus A1 milk. Although there are no concrete studies to prove it one way or the other, there is a book, “The Devil is in the Milk” by Dr. Keith Woodford, that has become a bible for believers.
There is, however, anecdotal evidence that cows with the original A2 gene are more hardy, more likely to thrive, in a 100% grass fed environment. These are the original cows, with the more feral genetics, and as a grass fed creamery that has meaning for us. Introducing some A2 genetics into our herd seemed right.
After much googling and visiting, we found a farm in New York State with a herd of healthy, thriving grass fed A2 cows that we felt would be a match for our herd. Our ten debutantes arrived the last Friday of February, pushing into the pole barn to get acquainted with the CGF herd. Our girls lined the paddock fence, craning their necks to see the new arrivals, amidst much mooing, snorting, and sniffing.
The new cows will be kept apart for a while to give them time to acclimate, and when the grass springs again, they will be introduced to our pastures and begin their life at the farm. We expect about 45 calves this spring. We hope you will drop by to visit and say hello to the newcomers.
Note: A1A1 and A2A2 genetics are not, as sometimes reported, breed specific. The A1A1 gene may predominate in certain breeds, but you can find A2A2 Holsteins and A1A1 Jerseys. The only way to know for sure is to test the milk.