Milk quality important for Shumway Farms
Star Valley – “It gives us a sense of pride knowing that we’re carrying on a tradition that’s been cherished and well-loved for generations,” says sixth generation dairy farmer Joseph Shumway.
Shumway and his father Jody own and operate Shumway Farms in Star Valley with the help of their families.
Shumway explains his family has been in the dairy business in Star Valley since 1885.
Traditionally, the family has raised Holstein cattle, but over the years, they have also incorporated Jersey cows into their herd.
“Right now, we milk about 36 cows in the milking herd, and we have an assortment of young stock,” says Shumway. “We also have some Angus cattle that we raise to sell meat to our customers.”
In addition to the cattle, Shumway Farms also raises forage for feed.
“We raise alfalfa and barley for our cows, and we have quite a bit of pasture ground for grazing,” he continues.
The farm features a small retail store, as well as their milk packaging facility.
“We bottle and sell our own raw milk,” explains Shumway. “We also make chocolate milk, and we just started making ice cream and launched it this June in our store.”
“About four or five years ago, we saw an increase in people approaching us and asking if they could purchase our raw milk directly,” says Shumway, noting the general public’s interest in the product is growing.
Prior to the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, he explains the farm was required to operate under a herd share contract, which they did for a limited number of customers.
“When the Wyoming Food Freedom Act passed in 2015, it opened up options for us to sell raw milk on a larger scale, market our products and expand a little bit,” he continues. “We bottle it and sell it here on the farm, as well as at farmers’ markets, now.”
A large contributing factor in the family’s decision to transition to selling raw milk was to maintain economic viability as a small farm.
“Really, my goal in coming back to the farm has been to find ways to make it a sustainable business without having to get too huge,” he says. “I’m trying to find ways we can keep and maintain a small herd but produce products that sell directly to the consumer.”
Shumway comments that a large portion of the milk produced on the farm is sent to a cheese factory in Idaho, but the family hopes to eventually sell all of their milk directly to consumers.
“We just launched the ice cream to continue to expand our product base with the idea we want to direct market all of our milk at some point,” notes Shumway.
According to Shumway, there are two different categories of raw milk produced.
“There is raw milk intended for human consumption and raw milk intended for pasteurization,” he says.
When producing raw milk for human consumption, Shumway notes optimal animal health and nutrition is imperative.
“We try to operate organically as much as possible and make sure they have a forage-based diet so their gut is in good health,” comments Shumway. “It keeps them healthy and passes through to their milk, making it as nutrient-dense as possible.”
Cleanliness of the milking equipment and maintaining stringent management procedures is also important in producing raw milk for consumption.
“We have a lab on the farm, so we test at least weekly to monitor bacterial levels and make sure everything is in tip-top shape,” Shumway explains.
“With the raw milk dairy, there’s an even higher level of consciousness as to milking procedures and milking equipment cleaning methods,” he continues. “It’s a heightened level of operation because we know we’re producing a product that’s being consumed by the end consumer directly.”
With an eye toward the future, Shumway notes the family hopes to continue to expand their farm store.
“We’re looking to expand and build a larger store that has an old-fashioned ice cream parlor to have a place for families to come and have family gatherings, parties or receptions,” says Shumway. “We want to make our farm something that is more of a cherished local destination, as well as a tourist stop for people.”
While dairy was the primary industry in Star Valley man years ago, Shumway explains not many dairies are left in the area.
“Ultimately, we are looking to create a sustainable farming operation that preserves an important part of the Star Valley’s history. We want to make it something special that the community values and cherishes as a local landmark,” he concludes.
Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.