Happy Cow Creamery
, in Pelzer, SC, also known as Twelve
Aprils Dairy, was an ordinary dairy until the April morning more than twenty
years ago when the cows broke down a gate to pursue the greener grass on the
other side of the fence. Farmer Tom
Trantham was initially so angry at his cows that he left them alone in the
pasture and went inside to watch TV, something a farmer never has time to do in
the middle of the day.
|A "happy cow" chewing her cud.|
His farm was nearly bankrupt because of declining milk
prices and rising feed prices. He
operated a conventional dairy where the cows ate silage and grain and remained
inside on a concrete floor. He was
nearly ready to give the bank the farm and look for other ways to earn a living
that day the cows escaped, although he desperately wanted to farm.
That evening, the cows came to the barn for their milking,
and they gave an extra 200 pounds of milk.
All the fresh air, green grass, and sunshine allowed their bodies to do
what nature intended: produce milk. Excited by the increased amount of milk, Farmer
Trantham researched rotational grazing, where cows graze fresh paddocks of
grass every day so they get the most nutrients from each plant. He learned which grasses grow best during
which times of the year, and how long to let the cows graze the grass before
moving them on. The name Twelve Aprils
Dairy came from his observation that, with careful pasture management and
judicious use of his own hay and silage, he could produce the bounty of milk he
got on April pasture twelve months out of the year.
He allows the cows to eat the grass they were designed to
eat, and lets the sunshine, fresh air, and opportunity for exercise help his
cows remain healthy and happy. Twice a
day, the cows line up by the barn, each carrying an udder full of about 60
pounds of milk. They jostle each other
and compete for the first place in line, although they usually get in line at
about the same place every day. They
knock at the door with their noses while they wait, saying “Hey, don’t forget
me!” After the cows are milked, which
takes about three hours twice a day, the cows go back into a pasture where they
can graze the grass.
|"Let me in!" she says as she knocks on the door .|
I visited the farm with my girls to see where their milk
comes from. The farm offers tours and
has a retail shop where they sell milk and other dairy, meat, and vegetable
products. They sell whole, pasteurized,
non-homogenized milk, which means that potentially harmful bacteria are killed
by pasteurization but the cream still rises to the top of the milk.
Farmer Trantham has turned a farm on the brink of bankruptcy
into a thriving business by using fewer purchased, off-farm inputs and by
selling his milk directly to the public.
Most dairies sell their milk to a company, which mingles it with the
milk of other dairies, bottles it, and sells it to grocery stores. Farmer Trantham sells his milk off the farm
and to small stores, like Rosewood Market and 14 Carrots in the Columbia, South Carolina, area. Wil-Moore Farms
, in the Lugoff
803-438-3097, also carries the milk.