Following is a fairly comprehensive list of questions to pose to a raw milk dairy. I recommend you read these documents from the Raw Milk Institute and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund to see the kind of answers we would be hoping for. Also, I recommend The Raw Milk Answer Book, which I have reviewed for our blog. I photographed the raw milk above at The Abbey Farm.
What breed or breeds of cows do you milk?
Do you have a closed herd?
What do your cows eat? What about at milking time?
How often is the cow on pasture? How often is the herd moved from pasture to pasture – rotational grazing?
In the winter, what comprises the largest portion of the cow’s diet — hay? sileage? grain? something else?
If the cow receives any feed, is the feed organic? If not, does it contain GMOs, soy, or any animal-derived protein? What ingredients are in the feed?
When do you use antibiotics? Do you use rBGH (bovine growth hormone)? What vaccinations do you give?
How do you control flies on your cows? How do you control weeds in your grazing fields? What type of wormer do you use?
Do you and your family drink the milk from your farm?
How often do you test your cows for disease? Do you ever test the milk for pathogens? If so, how often and what for? When a test comes back positive or with a high bacteria count, how do you respond?
When the cow is ill, what is your protocol? Does she receive antibiotics at any point? And when the antibiotics are finished, is she incorporated back into the herd?
How big is your milk herd and how many acres of pasture do they graze on?
How many acres does your farm have?
How many acres are dedicated to the lactating cows?
How many acres are devoted to the rest of your herd?
What do you grow on the rest of your acreage?
What is the material of the floor in the milking area?
Are there other animals on your farm? Do they have access to the milking area?
Do you have a hand-wash sink separate from the wash vats of the milking system?
How do you cool your milk after milking?
Do you keep the milk cool during transport?