by Anya Stone
Tommy and Michelle Neu, owners of Circle N Dairy, near Gainesville, along with their son Kevin and fiancé Amber, like being good stewards of the land as family dairy farmers. To ensure the healthiest cows and subsequently the highest-quality, hormone-free milk, the Neus raise their own crops and provide a free-range living format for their herd. Wheat and barley are planted in the fall, and then cut at the most nutritional stage of the plant, giving the cows the best-quality feed, with more protein and energy. A healthy diet ensures the cows will produce all the milk they can without the use of hormones.
“Our cows always have the freedom to be out on pastures, but during summer months when it’s hot and there’s little rain, there is not always enough quality grass available to keep them healthy, able to produce milk and maintain the needs of a calf growing inside them,” explains Michelle. “That’s why Circle N cows are fed silage (a high moisture forage stored in an upright airtight silo where it ferments, making it more digestible for the cows) year-round, along with a supplementation of a small amount of grain either barley or milo grown here at the dairy. This gives them energy and keeps them at a healthy weight.”
“Sustainability is a big part of who we are and how we farm,” says Michelle. “We recycle all of the water used here at the dairy with our lagoon, as well as the manure. The recycled water is used to clean the free stall barn and irrigate our pastures, while the manure is composted and spread on the fields, putting rich nutrients back into the soil.”
To control flies, the Neus opt for a natural method over chemicals. “We use gnat-sized parasitic wasps,” explains Michelle. They are nocturnal, burrowing insects that don’t bite or sting people or animals, but lay their eggs inside the fly pupae. This not only kills the fly, but also allows the wasp eggs to grow inside the deceased fly pupae to repeat the cycle.
When the dairy was started in 1967, the laws were such that the Neus could only sell milk to commercial producers that pasteurized it, used it in dairy products or packaged it for retail sale. Now. Circle N Dairy has one permit for commercial sales and another to sell milk directly from farm in its natural, raw state.
“Our children, and now grandchildren, have all grown up drinking raw milk, which is protein-rich, contains water- and fat-soluble vitamins, a broad spectrum of minerals and is more digestible, due in part to the intact lactose-digesting bacteria and naturally occurring enzymes which don’t get killed off in a pasteurizing process,” says Michelle. “Raw milk doesn’t have to be enriched or fortified, the good stuff is already in there.”
She says their milk is tested on a daily basis. “Every tank of milk produced here is tested for pathogens, antibiotics and somatic cell count. Plus, it’s tested monthly by the state inspector. We love educating people about farming, milk production and of course, the value of raw milk, too.” They offer regular farm tours and encourage people to see the process and taste the milk.
Circle N Dairy is located near Gainesville, four miles west of I-35, on U.S. 82. For more information, call Michelle Neu at 940-372-0343, or visit CircleNDairy.com.