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Grazing dairy producers team up with ‘dairy evangelist’

PD Editor Emily Caldwell Published on 27 December 2010

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Warren Taylor doesn’t just believe in the benefits of grass-fed milk or enjoy the taste. He’s trying to start a revolution.

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His business card for the recent venture he began with wife, Victoria, states, “Warren Taylor, Dairy Evangelist.” And given the rapid success of the Taylors’ Snowville Creamery, Taylor may just be preaching to the converted.

Snowville Creamery, based in Pomeroy, Ohio, currently offers products in about 85 locations, in four areas: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Washington, D.C. That’s no small feat, considering distribution began in December 2007.

The milk and cream products are packaged in plastic-coated paperboard, which Taylor says helps to ensure a fresh taste. The company’s main slogan is “Milk the Way it Used to Be.”

The Creamery’s website, www.snowvillecreamery.com , provides information about many proposed benefits of grass-fed milk, including essential fatty acids, such as Omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs).

And while Taylor is certainly well-versed in the subject matter now, he wasn’t always so concerned about the way cows were raised. However, with nearly 40 years of experience in dairy technology, he did know everything one could possibly know about dairy processing equipment, testing and packaging.

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The Taylors obtained a grazing education from longtime neighbors and friends, Bill Dix and Stacy Hall. And when Warren decided to take the leap of faith in building his own creamery, he knew he wanted the milk from their herd.

The herd philosophy
Dix and Hall were believers in the pasture-based management system from the beginning. In 1993, they started out with 24 milking cows, in addition to the chickens and pigs they had been raising in the past.

Today, the seasonal milking herd consists of 270 cows, grazing on 350 acres of pasture. While Dix and Hall may not share Warren’s enthusiasm for milk marketing, they will talk grazing with anyone who is interested. They frequently attend conferences, host pasture walks and connect with fellow graziers to share ideas.

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One of the more unique features of the operation is an underpass, underneath a busy main road, that the cows walk through to get from the paddocks to the parlor. The passageway was installed about five years ago, and opened up much more of the farm to put into grazing, says Dix.

For their decision to graze, Hall and Dix cite many of the same reasons that fellow graziers do – lower input costs, more profit per cow, less equipment needed – in addition to more personal beliefs, such as a pasture-based system being better for the herd and the environment.

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But perhaps one of the biggest draws to grazing, particularly for Dix, who is nearing retirement age, is the lifestyle it affords.

With three full-time workers, Dix and Hall only have to do one or two milkings a week. And they’re in the process of training one worker to make more of the management decisions, including planning out the paddocks.

“People ask me when I’m going to start thinking about retiring,” Dix says. “Retire from what?”

Working out the details
While Dix and Hall did not invest their own money into the creamery, they obviously have a personal interest in seeing the business succeed. Hall says there is a milk shortage and their herd is one of the largest in the area. Snowville Creamery helps to fill a niche market requested by consumers in nearby Athens, which Hall says has a “young, hip culture” focused on buying local, a trend certainly not limited to Ohio.

Luckily for consumers, the Taylors are able to rely on milk from the herd at Hamm Valley Farm in Racine, when the Dix/Hall herd is dried off for the winter months.

Looking ahead
It’s safe to say Snowville Creamery will remain at the forefront of the campaign for dairy products from grass-fed cows, particularly with the addition of artisan cheesemaker Bill Anderson, who recently moved to Ohio from Wisconsin. Anderson was heavily involved in the raw milk debate, being a proponent of cheese made with raw milk from pasture-based dairies.

As for Dix and Hall, they’re happy to continue what they’re doing and grow the herd from within. They would eventually like to rent a third farm to raise their youngstock. All the while, of course, welcoming and educating anyone who wants to learn more about grazing. PD

PHOTOS:
TOP RIGHT: Warren Taylor explains some of the processing equipment in Snowville Creamery, which was built about 100 yards from Bill Dix and Stacy Hall’s milking parlor.

TOP LEFT: One of the more unique features of the grazing farm is an underpass underneath a busy main road. This allowed Bill Dix and Stacy Hall to take advantage of more pastureland. Photos by Emily Caldwell.

Emily Caldwell
Editor
Progressive Dairyman

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