Many people are curious about raw milk and now, more specifically, A2 raw milk. What is A2 milk, and how does it differ from A1 milk? In this post, we're diving deep into all the details with my guest Katie Millhorn.
Welcome to episode number 390 of the Pioneering Today Podcast. For all other episodes, check out the podcast page on the website.
Katie Millhorn from Millhorn Farmstead is not only my partner and co-founder of the Modern Homesteading Conference, but she also owns and operates one of the largest raw milk dairies in Idaho, along with her family.
When Katie was in her early 30s, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. After countless treatments, she reached the point where she was seeing some improvements, but she was limited in the amount of steroids she could take due to the effect on her kidneys. When the doctor recommended a more severe ongoing treatment, that's when the red flags went up.
She and her husband began researching how to heal her autoimmune disease with practical lifestyle changes without the use of medication. They began where most of us do, which is with our food. From there they looked at everything else they used on a daily or weekly basis.
Katie's shampoo, toothpaste, taco seasoning and even the milk they were buying were all causing flare-ups of her autoimmune disease. Once they realized this, they began their journey of clearing out the junk and really paying attention to what went on and in their bodies.
I can relate to her health issues as I went through my own journey to eliminate toxins in my home as well. You can read more about this in the following posts:
- 13 Healthier Ingredients to Swap Out Now
- Why Makeup and Skincare Ingredients Matter
- Thyroid, Adrenal Glands and Hormone Health
- My Health Journey
- 5 Symptoms Your Gut Health is Off
Why Can't Some People Drink Milk?
Looking around today, it seems there are allergies all around us. Some people can drink pasteurized milk just fine, and other people can drink raw milk just fine, but then there are those people, like Katie, who couldn't even drink raw milk. That is until she looked further into the genes of the dairy cows and realized the raw milk she was consuming was A1 milk.
As it turns out, there's a gene mutation that makes the composition of A1 milk different and less digestible for those with dairy allergies.
Prior to WWII, it was extremely common for people to be drinking raw milk from a family dairy cow. If you didn't own one, you probably had a neighbor who did. Once WWII hit, the women didn't have time for keeping a family milk cow because many of them got jobs and didn't want to go back to home life.
Dairy Cow Genetics
After the war, more and more people started relying on grocery stores for milk. With the increased demand for store-bought milk, commercial dairies resorted to more Holstein cows to provide this need.
Holstein cows are only 26-50% likely to have A2 genetics. When you think about how many dairies are in the United States, it's extremely unlikely that you'll receive milk from a dairy that's strictly A2. It's likely been blended with A1.
What is the A1 Gene?
In a cow's sixth chromosome, there's an amino acid chain and on the 67th link (of the 206 amino acid chain) there's a mutation. That mutation is what distinguishes A1 milk and A2 milk. A2 milk does not have this gene mutation.
When you digest A1 milk with this genetic mutation in the amino acid chain, it develops BCM7. BCM7, combined with poor gut health (mainly due to the highly processed Standard American Diet), typically causes people to experience issues such as lactose intolerance, digestive upset, rashes, behavioral issues, or even mental clarity issues.
Katie explains that the BCM7 is a morphine-like opiate, and it can cross the blood/brain barrier and cause behavioral and neurological issues. Many of Katie's clients are parents with autistic children looking to change their kid's diets.
All “old-fashioned” milk (like most family milk cows of old) was more than likely A2 milk. A hundred years ago, most family dairy cows were either Jerseys or Guernseys. These breeds, more times than not, produced A2 milk.
The A2 gene in milk is easily digestible, and most people don't have adverse reactions to it.
Other Livestock With A2 Milk
Did you know that women naturally have A2 breast milk? Katie mentioned that many of her clients are people with lactose intolerance issues or mothers who need milk for their babies but don't want to use formula.
Cows are not the only animals that provide A2 milk. Other animals with natural A2 milk are goats, sheep, buffalo and camels.
Can You Breed A2 Genetics?
Yes, you can breed A2 genetics, but you won't be 100% guaranteed to get an A2 dairy cow. Katie gives the example that people who are able to find an A2 Holstein (because they're rare for that breed) are breeding them with an A2 bull, which will in turn give you a 50% chance of getting a heifer that will give you A2 milk.
Therefore, you can eventually breed out the A1 gene.
Dairy Cow Breeds
The following are the six most common breeds of dairy cows you'll find in the United States. The list is in order of those breeds that have the highest likelihood of having the A2 gene and those with the smallest likelihood:
- Jersey – With a Jersey, you have an 80% chance of getting an A2 milk cow.
- Milking Shorthorn – This breed will also give you an 80% chance of getting A2 milk.
- Brown Swiss – A Brown Swiss cow will give you a 70% chance of getting A2 milk.
- Guernsey – A Guernsey will also give you a 70% chance of getting A2 milk.
- Ayrshire – This breed has a higher chance of having the A1 gene mutation.
- Holstein – This breed also has a higher chance of having the A1 gene mutation.
Though “you can't judge a cow by its cover,” it's more likely that a brown dairy cow will provide you with A2 milk. She has personally had an A2 Holstein, so they do exist, but they're much harder to find.
On Katie's farm, she stays away from keeping dairy bulls because they're typically more aggressive, and she doesn't want them around her children or around those who come tour her farm.
Instead, Millhorn Farmstead breeds its dairy cows with a Scottish Highland bull. Not only are their offspring sturdier, but they can also handle the colder northwestern United States climate, and they're not as picky about their feed.
Finding Purebred A2 Cows
I asked Katie if certain breeds, when purebred, will be A2 cows or if they will always need to be tested for this gene.
She answered that you couldn't tell a cow's genetics just by breed or by looking at them. They have to be tested.
To find A2 dairy cows or A2 raw milk, the website Get Raw Milk has a listing of raw milk dairies around the United States. If you're interested in purchasing a dairy cow, you can contact these dairies to see if they sell any of their herd.
Testing for the A1 or A2 Gene
Katie certifies all her dairy cows with a test. If you're looking to buy a cow and the farm can't provide an A2 certification, she highly recommends getting that cow certified.
To test a cow's genetics, you simply take 25 hair follicles from its tail hair and send it to UC Davis. She says it's about $25 and will give you the results in a matter of weeks.
Katie never purchases a cow without sending in these tests, even if the farmer says they're A2 cows. It's one way she never has to regret a purchase!
Considerations for Breeds
I am a lover of butter. If you've ever made homemade butter before, then you'll be saying hallelujah right along with me! Many people love Jerseys because they have such a high butterfat content.
However, Scottish Highland cows also have high butterfat, but they're harder to milk in a stanchion because they have horns. So you have to have a specific kind of milking stall for them.
Where to Find Katie
You can meet Katie in person at the Modern Homesteading Conference this year in North Idaho (June 30-July 1, 2023), or you can check her out at the following places:
Verse of the Week: Romans 8:31
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Melissa: Hey, pioneers. Welcome to episode number 390. Today's episode, we are going to be diving into raw milk and specifically the difference between A2A2 milk and A1. If you've ever heard that term before, I know for some of you that will be familiar. You've probably heard people talk about A2A2 milk. But for others, that might not be something that you've ever heard, or maybe you've heard someone say A2 milk, but you didn't really know what that meant. In today's episode, we are going to dive into that. I love today's guest for many reasons, as you will find out as we go through this episode.
But I also love her story on her health journey, how she became aware of A2A2 milk, the role that that played in her healing, and how it has shaped her entire business and livelihood and has also allowed her to help other people on their healing journey. Without further ado, I am going to be introducing you to Katie Millhorn from Millhorn Farmstead. Katie is a dear friend of mine. She is my dairy mentor, and Katie is also my co-founder and partner with the Modern Homesteading Conference. Katie is one of the largest, if not the largest female raw dairy owner of dairies and operators in Idaho, which is the state that Katie is in.
She is a wealth of information, and we dive into her health journey and story talking about A2A2, what it is, why it's right for some people, the history there. But when Katie and I get together and start talking about cows, we just can't help ourselves. It's one of our favorite subjects. We have been known when we get together to sit and talk about cows and farming and raising them for hours. I'm super excited for you to get to meet Katie and also get this information and hear it. If you are watching this on YouTube, welcome. We are just getting started with posting the podcast episode on YouTube.
Welcome if you're discovering us there. If you're listening to this the old-fashioned way through headphones, through an app usually on your phone, then you can go to the blog post, which will be linked beneath the video version at melissaknorris.com/390, 390 in numerical, melissaknorris.com/390, because this is episode number 390. You will find the written transcript of this episode, as well as additional links. Without further ado, let's get straight in to this interview. Hey, Katie. Welcome officially to the Pioneering Today Podcast.
Katie: Well, thanks for having me.
Melissa: It's funny, you and I talk almost daily. When I got my milk cow, bless your heart, I think you answered 501 texts and voice messages in the space of 24 hours. I feel like everybody should already know you just because you're such a huge part of my life. I'm excited to have you on.
Katie: Well, I'm excited to be here and I was excited to be able to answer your questions. I have a dairy friend who's my mentor also, and I couldn't do what I do without him. Everybody needs that text, so I was very happy to do it.
Melissa: Thank you. I'm excited though today, one, for people to hear your story, but also because I feel like I have a very rudimentary understanding of A2A2 and exactly what it is and why certain people need it and why a lot of people are finding that and seeking it out. But a lot of people also don't know what it is. In fact, funny story, I was at a grocery store that did have... They had raw milk. It was not A2A2, but they had raw milk. This was before I had Clover and found my current source. I could go there. She was on the phone and I was waiting for her to check me out. She's like, "You want what kind of milk?"
And then I heard her say A2A2. She put the customer on hold and she's looking around for one of the other cashiers. She's like, "Do we have A2A2 milk?" I'm like, no, you don't. You don't, because it would be prominently displayed. I've already looked up where your source is and it's raw milk, but it's not A2A2. She's like, "Okay, thanks." She tells the customer, but she had no idea what it was. I gave her just this real brief, but I'm like, oh, I'm glad she didn't ask me any more questions because I'm not sure I could have answered them correctly. Obviously we're going to be talking about raw milk and A2A2, but what led you down the path of discovering what it was?
Katie: My rabbit hole to the A2 was I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in my early 30s and quite unhealthy, stuck in bed. My mom must take care of my kids. My husband was in the harvest. I had gone to the rheumatologist and we're doing steroids and injectable, anti-inflammatories. I'd reached this point in my treatment where I was feeling really good and I was improving, but he was no longer allowed to give me as much steroids anymore because my kidneys couldn't handle it. He gave me another option and said it's a tumor shrinking agent. The terms he used was the big red flag for me, and went home and researched it and decided that was not right for our family.
My husband and I really went down this Google of autoimmune diseases have been around for 100 years plus, but we've been healing ourself without chemotherapy, without steroids, without anti-inflammatories for thousands. What factor is it in there that I was missing in my day-to-day? Why at 31 years old was I stuck needing IV therapy? There's a million different diets, but we really came down to everything in our home at that point was toxic and we really didn't notice. We lived a very, very clean, what we thought was clean lifestyle. We always had a whole beef in the freezer. I canned our own food.
We live out in the country. I didn't realize that the chemical in the toothpaste was making me flare. I didn't realize that my shampoo was making me flare. I didn't realize that the taco seasoning was making me flare, and I sure didn't realize that the dairy was making me flare. As soon as I went on this really strict elimination diet, dairy, unfortunately, was one of my biggest triggers. I'm a Pacific Northwest person, so that means Tillamook. Tillamook is my favorite thing. I love cheese. To find out that could commercial cheese and commercial dairy actually be making me sick, it was really like, no, there's no way.
I eat organic tomatoes. I went into this rabbit hole of, okay, why 200 years ago were people able to drink dairy? Why 50 years ago were people able to drink dairy and now every single person has a reaction? In my healing process, of course, I needed certain foods in my diet and that was a grass-fed beef. I needed corn-free, soy-free poultry, and I needed a raw milk, and raw milk I could get. We do have several raw milk farms around here. I didn't have any milk cows at that time. And then it persisted of, well, I'm still sick with the raw milk, so there has to be some other component.
Like so many people, they can drink commercial milk just fine and some people can drink raw milk just fine, but some people absolutely cannot drink either. For me, there's something else, and then I learned about the A2 gene. As confusing as it is, it's really not. It's pretty simple. When we first started domesticating dairy cows, they were brought here in... The first Holstein was like 1852 off of a sailboat in Massachusetts or something. They started bringing more and more in, and we were commercializing them. Back then, everybody had a family cow. And then as soon as World War II hit, then the women went back to work and they had no time for the family milk house.
They started relying on going to the grocery store and working all at the same time. Commercial dairies needed more milk in the grocery store to supply all the Americans that were working, they got more Holsteins. Holsteins are not... I don't want to put them as shaming them because there are certain cows that have this A2 gene and there are certain cows that do not have it. The reason commercially so many people say pasteurize commercial milk is A1 is because Holsteins in general have like a 26 to 50% likelihood that they are A2. If you think about all the commercial dairies in the US, the majority of them are going to be an A1 cow.
That's where we get the comic exception that all commercial milk is A1. It's not. It is blended with an A2. No way to test for it, and it's so dominant with the A1 gene. Really what that A1 gene and A2 gene is, at the cow's sixth chromosome, there's a amino acid chain. On the 67th of the 206 amino acid chain, there's a mutation. And that mutation, when you digest it, it's called A1. Old-fashioned milk is all A2, so grandma's milk, your old neighbor's milk, growing up milk that you could digest. More than likely that was A2, because that was the family milk cow. There wasn't a largely commercial Holsteins.
Most family cows were not Holsteins. They were Jerseys. They were Guernseys. The A2 gene is easily digestible, and we don't have issues with it. I say people don't have lactose intolerant with it. The A1 gene, when you digest it, what happens is it actually develops what's called BCM-7. That little bugger is the issue, especially with people with a gut health issue, which the majority of our common human diet, we don't have proper gut health. That's where you get digestive issues from dairy. That's where you get rashes from dairy, and even neurological, forgetfulness and behavior issues with dairy. It's that BCM-7 that really is to blame.
With anything that has a healing mechanism or somebody has found studies of a healing mechanism, there's equal amount of conflict with it. That's why some people are... I mean, you're either pro A2 or you don't know about it or you are anti-A2. Your lady in the grocery store, do we have A2 milk? Let me tell you, if a dairy farm has A2 milk, they advertise it.
Melissa: That's what I told her.
Katie: They know it. When people say like, "Oh, I don't know if my cows are A2," they do. If you are in the raw milk business, you know if your cows are A2 because you want to promote it because it's so vastly different and your clientele is hugely different too and so are the margins. Your common cows, your family milk cows, they're more than likely A2.
Melissa: Okay, so that was one of my questions is, are there more breed specific that as long as they're not crossed, obviously they're whole, purebred is what I actually meant to say, that they're more likely percentage-wise to be A2A2? Or you're like, oh no, if they are 100% Jersey or 100% Guernsey, then they are A2? Or can there be still percentages where it's higher likelihood they're A2A2 if they're those breeds, just like with the Holstein, because you said that 26 to 50% could be A2A2, but you have also a very large portion that could be A1A1? Is that true for the other breeds? Can you just say, oh, if you've got 100% Jersey, then you're a A2A2?
Katie: Unfortunately, you can't say it and you can't tell by even looking at a dairy cow. In the entire world, there's like 920 different dairy cows and breeds of dairy cows. But in the United States, there's six that are the most common. There's the Jersey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn, Guernsey, and the Holstein. Your top ones for likelihood at 80% are the Jersey and the Milking Shorthorn followed by the Guernsey and Brown Swiss at like 70%. I mean, more likely than not, your brown cows will be A2.
I personally have owned an A2 Holstein, so they do exist. They're little bit of unicorns right now. But you are seeing it more and more because people are aware of this genetic mutation. People that have an A1 Holstein are breeding it to an A2 bull to 50% likely to have an A2 calf. You can breed out into the A1. Yes.
Melissa: Say I'm going to look, because this is kind of hypothetical, but probably just a little bit future down the road, if I'm like, okay, we're going to get another milk cow and I want to make sure that it's A2A2, is there some type of registry other than I'm sure on the AI, if you're looking for artificial insemination that you could probably filter that way? But is there a registry for A2A2 dairies or sources both if I wanted to find A2A2 milk, but also breed wise? If I wanted to buy an A2A2 milk cow, how would I ensure that?
Katie: Really your best sources are rawmilk.com. I think it's getrawmilk.com. Those will show raw dairies. Again, if their cows are A2, they're going to put that right in their statement. Mine says something like Millhorn Farmstead Raw A2A2 Certified Jersey Milk.
Melissa: It's the certified that you're looking for.
Katie: I say certified because in order to figure out if your cow is A2 or A1, you will want to take a DNA sample. I send that DNA sample to UC Davis, and then they send me the certificate that says the cow is without the A1 genetic. There's actually 15 different types of A1 and A2. But all in all, it really equals A1 or A2. There's A1B and C and E, but they either have the mutation or they don't.
Melissa: When you say a DNA sample, is it always blood? Is it a hair follicle or milk?
Katie: You can do both. It's perfect for backyard farmers, hobby farmers, if you've got one cow, two cow. I've got a giant herd of cow and I still test this way, what's called that tail switch, so where the tail is really hard. Then where the hair starts coming out, you just grab... You need 25 follicles and you just twist it a little bit and you just pull up. You just grab a chunk of hair from the tail, and then you fill out a form on UC Davis and mail it in there. Within 15 days, they send you everything you need to know.
It's like 25 bucks. When you're purchasing a cow, I won't purchase it, even though they claim it's A2. I pull tail hairs before I even trade any type of money. I only want A2 on my farm. My customers rely on me to have A2 on my farm. I mean, it's so easy. It's just one simple thing to not regret a purchase.
Melissa: No, that's really good. It's funny because we just bought a, which I'm curious because I know you had them too, but you don't milk them, Scottish Highlands. We got a bull and the guy that we bought them from thought that the owner had done the tail switch and sent it in to get his registration papers. He was telling him, "I need you to transfer ownership to us."
He's like, "Oh, I didn't actually grab the sample. Here's the form and here's all the info on his heritage, but I need you to grab the tail switch," which when we bought him, I thought, well, if he is registered, that's great because eventually we'll sell him once we've got enough breeding down the line that we wouldn't want him back breeding to any of his granddaughters, et cetera, but I've never tail switched before. I'm like, is he going to kick me? Does it hurt, or keep it into a radius?
Katie: I think it just startles them. I try to brush them with a curry comb. They're having quite the bit of stimulation, so they know that I'm messing around. They know that I might not be overly gentle, and then I do it. It's not like you're just walking up to a sleeping cow and just yank out a chunk of his tail. I'll let them know. I let her know she's there. With the Scottish Highlanders, more likely than not, unless there is some type of cross-breed, they are A2.
Melissa: That was where I was going with that.
Katie: Yes. In my dairy, I no longer run dairy bulls. They're mean. They're aggressive. I don't want them around my children. I only rent Scottish Highlander bulls to breed my dairy cows. We get fluffy little A2 babies and they're perfect for a dual purpose. If you have a bull, then... I Jersey meat is delicious. People knock it because it's not a standard Angus or a Hereford, but it is delicious. It's really fork tender. And then you add the Scottish Highland in there and it's twice as good. It's super marbled. If you're looking for a good family homestead cow, really the cross-breed between a dairy and a Scottish Highlander is ideal, especially in the Pacific Northwest.
While you might not get the higher milk production of a dairy cow, you also don't have the scrawny body type of a dairy cow, which goes really well with our hard winters. You also have the more fur to keep them warm, and they're not as picky about their feet. Scottish Highlanders in general are foragers. Dairy cows, they are picky. They are the most high maintenance women on the face of the planet. Find those two and you got one that is not a very wasteful cow. They're pretty self-sufficient.
Melissa: Okay, two questions. One, butter fat.
Melissa: Because usually Jersey is known for having a higher butter fat overall than Holstein and some of your other breeds. If you're into in butter and cream, which I am, hallelujah, I really like that. But I was reading that the Scottish Highlands have even a higher butter fat than the Jersey. Have you ever milked any of your Scottish Highlands?
Katie: Not pure. Mostly because my milking parlor is not set up for their horns. I do not dehorn them. I think that's part of their beautiful nature, so I leave that all attached. There's no way to get them into my head shoot. But the Highland Jerseys, they still have that Jersey curl, so they can maneuver their way in there. But the thing with having the Jersey Highland with horns and then Jerseys without horns is those that have horns know they have horns and they use them against them.
I try to recommend to people, if you're going to have horned cattle, then have horned cattle. If you're going to have dehorned cattle, then do that. Try not to intermix them because they do beat each other up. Your cows scar and they get hematomas in that. It's just something you shouldn't intermingle.
Melissa: Okay, that's good to know because we are going to move some of our Angus herd down to the farm stay where the Scottish Highlands are, but we could definitely cross fence and keep separate paddocks for each of the herds.
Katie: I will run my Herefords. I've got a couple Herefords that I will run with the Scottish Highlanders because they are twice their size. These are the biggest girls I've ever seen. They're like mammoth cows. They're like the old ox from 7,000 years ago. They're big girls, and they hold their own. If they were weakly or smaller, I would not put them in there.
Melissa: Okay, that's good to know. Don't put the yearlings in, but maybe some of our big. I got one herd boss Angus right now. She probably would do okay. Okay, good to know. Part of me is like, some of my Scottish Highlands, they're due to start calving in August and September and I don't have a milk cow. There's a part of me that's like, can I milk it? It depends on if I get, like you said, a head shoot because they're not tamed. We're working on gentling right now. They'll eat out of my hand. They stay on guard. They'll take a treat. While they're eating the treat, if there's another one there, I can scratch under their chin, but I can't full on get in and truly pet them, pet them yet.
But I will be looking at head shoots actually. I'm really excited for the Modern Homesteading Conference, which for those of you who don't know, Katie is my co-founder. We started the Modern Homesteading Conference together. There is going to be a vendor there that has... You explain it because you actually talked to him before me, but it's a round pen with a head shoot, right?
Katie: Yeah. It's called the Homestead Package, and it's an Arrowquip setup. They'll be at conference. They will have cattle in there, and they'll be able to work and show you how to maneuver them in there. Well, anything cows I'm super excited about. And then Cheese From Scratch. Robyn will be there and she'll be talking cows and making cheese. Of course, I'm thinking I should bring a milk cow, which we might. Who knows where we end up with that.
Melissa: With the round pen one, this one has a head shoot that's part of the round pen, right?
Melissa: I was trying to explain it to Clay and I'm like, you'll get a seat at conference because I know with the Highlands, because they're not tame yet... This whole podcast episode was supposed to be about A2A2. But once we start talking cows, watch out, because Katie and I can go all day long. She's had Scottish Highlands where I've not had that breed before and they're not completely tame yet. I'm praying that they all have heifers. Because if they have bulls, obviously we're going to band them. We're not going to keep them as bulls. But they have horns. All of our cows, none of our existing herd have horns.
When we go to grab babies to band, to castrate, you can just have someone standing between you and baby and telling mama it's okay and you're good to go. But she doesn't have horns to come at yet. With your experience with the Scottish Highlands, are they more aggressive when you're dealing with their babies if you have to band?
Katie: My mine are not. My Highlands are so docile. There's a few that are more than the others. There's several that we can go brush and they want scratches. There's some that I don't bother them, but they're not like, oh, yay, snack lady is here. There's a few that I'm like, I could probably milk you. Even now, we just got done with calving out our Highlands. I think we had 20 some calves, and we band in the field. This year we didn't have to rope any. We didn't have to use horses at all. Me and my farm hand Tegan on foot, grab calf, ear tag it, band it. Mama's just like moo. She's eating hay. She's happy.
She knows that we're not going to harm the baby because we've never harmed anything down there. We're not a threat to them because we're there every single day. My kids are down there every single day. They're not like, oh, there's that scary woman that brought her dogs. They know we're not a threat. They're probably easier to work in all state than my Jersey calves. The Jersey mamas are pretty feisty. When we have to take those calves or work the calves or band them, I'll actually put the Gator, the John Deere Gator, between the calf and mama, just in case I need to hop in, because some of them are just darn mean.
Melissa: Actually when you were talking about dairy bulls, I don't know if I... Did I tell you the story about the dairy bull last week that caught loose in our neighborhood?
Melissa: Oh gosh! We've got a little bit of time, but then I do actually have a couple questions. I'm going to circle us back to the A2A2. I got a call from one of my neighbors and he's like, "Can you hear me? I have laryngitis," on the phone. I'm like, "Yeah, I'm making out what you're saying. It's okay," He's like, "I was just calling to let you know that your Highlands," because they're at our farm stay and it's a half mile down the road from us, but I can't visually see my herd from our house. He lives across the street, which is great to have neighbors that keep an eye on your place. He said, "The neighbors two pastures back from you, their cows are out."
I'm like, okay. He said, "But the bull is really aggressive." I'm like, oh, okay. They have a bull and obviously we have a bull. I'm like, okay. He said, "And they're right next to your fence line right now. They were in my yard, but now they've moved and they're looking across the fence at your cows. They're just staring off right now." I'm like, okay. He's like, "But that boar is so aggressive." He says boar. First he said bull, and then I hear boar, but he has laryngitis and I'm like, I just must be hearing things, right? I'm like, okay. He said, "I'm not coming out of my house right now because that's how aggressive it was in our yard."
I'm like, oh gosh. I said, okay. I'm like, all right. I get in the truck and I grab my pistol. I'm like, well, I'm just going to drive down and see, but I'll stay in the truck, but I got to see what's going on. I get down there. From where the driveway is where I can actually get the truck, they're at the opposite end of the field and they're looking through their fence at where our Highlights are. My bull, of course, is standing there. The ladies are behind him, but nobody's doing anything. From a distance, there was three cows. I'm like, boy, that's a real small bull. I'm used to our big Angus and Hereford bulls. Yeah, there's some meat there.
I'm like, boy, I don't know if that's actually a bull. It has horns. I think he just saw horns and thought it was a bull. Well, then all of a sudden, it starts tossing hay and grass. I mean, just showing off, big old fit. It turns and I get a better look at it and I'm like, it's a dairy bull.
Katie: Oh no! Yeah, right.
Melissa: It's a bull, but it's a dairy bull. It's a Shorthorn dairy bull. I'm like, okay, this adds a little bit more complexity to the story. I'm like, I'm not getting out with that thing. They are loco. Then he starts to turn. It looks like he's going away from my fence line back up his driveway, which is long. I'm like, oh, great. He's going to take his ladies and go home. Nobody's fighting through the fence. I'm good. I had 12 baby ducklings that had just landed at the post office. I'm like, I'm going to go get my baby ducks and then I'll come back and check. But they're on their way, they're leaving. All's going to be fine. I go get my baby ducks and I'm coming back around.
Our post office is just a couple miles from our house. My other neighbor calls me as I'm just hitting our road. She's like, "Have you heard about the bull that's out?" I'm like, yeah. I'm like, but it looked like he was going back home. She's like, "No, I'm standing in the road right now and they're now in the yard of your farm stay. Thankfully we don't have any guests that day, but they're at the fence line again with your cows, but they're actually in your yard now." I'm like, okay. I said, "Well, I'm almost there." I said, "it's a dairy bull. Please don't get close," because she's lovely, but doesn't know anything about cows much yet.
She's like, "Oh, okay." I get there and they're in my yard, but there's also this 600 pound huge pig with him. There was a boar and a bull. You can't be making this stuff up. There's a CSA farm there. You have the farm workers and they've got these big sticks because these cows were trying to get in the fields where they were working and this bull is aggressive and it's coming at them. Thankfully, they were smart. They got these big branches to fend them off, but they're pushing them the opposite way of what their driveway and home field is because they're just trying to get them away from it. They didn't know where they came from.
I'm like, okay. I'm like, "Everybody, you see that black one? That's a bull and you need to make sure you stay really far away from it," going over everything. I said, "But we need to drive them back the other way. We've got to go in our field and get around them to push them back, because right now you're taking them further and further away from home." They're like, okay. I throw them in the back of my truck and we're cowboying. We're going to get them. Well, the sheriff got called because the owners, for whatever reason, she wasn't able to come out and help get the cows back, and we've got him in all these people's yards and whatnot.
The sheriff comes driving up, two sheriffs. He gets out. I meet him and I got in one hand, which I've totally licensed and all of the proper stuff, and then I've got a long stick in the other. I'm like, "Hey, how you doing officer?" He's like, "Well," da da da. I said, do you know anything about cows? He's like, no. I'm like, okay. I fill him in and he's like, oh. I said, "I'm really sorry I can't stay and help you anymore because I had a class I was supposed to be at in 20 minutes, and I have baby ducks in my truck." I'm like, "So good luck," and went through. Stay away from that, keep wide birth, all the things. Five hours later, my husband Clay is coming home from work.
It's been five hours. He's like, "The sheriffs are still out there." He's like, "There's a meat truck now." I'm like, they're still out there? I'm like, this has been over half the day. I called my neighbor because it was more her yard at that point than mine. That dairy bull attacked and gored someone's leg. They ended up putting it down. But I'm like, oh my goodness. Yes. To your story, dairy bulls are just loco. Anyways, that was my cow excitement story.
Katie: I used to be a really big bull snob, and I sought out an A2 New Zealand Kiwi bull. I spent this ungodly amount of money on him. I mean, he was little tiny, and we called him Kiwi. He had all these fantastic genetics for my A2 herd I was growing. He was a bottle baby. I was like, good being naive, oh, a bottle baby, they're going to be twice as nice. I'll never have an issue with him. They're the meanest things ever. He tried to kill me. We ended up and ate him. He was delicious.
It was fine. There's this misconception that if you raise them bottled, then they're going to be nice because you're the mother, you're the nurturer. Actually it plays opposite where then you become a threat because you were dominant and now he wants to be dominant. Actually dairy bulls that are bottle raised are twice as angry and aggressive as ones that are raised by their mother.
Melissa: I have no idea, because I haven't researched it. Is there a certain reason that dairy bulls are so much meaner or are more aggressive than other breeds it seems, or it just seems to just roll that way?
Katie: It just seems to roll that way. I have found that 18 month mark. I can keep a dairy bull until literally the day they turn 18, and then they're mean. When they gain a bunch of testosterone, their face turns really dark. And as soon as they hit that mark and their face starts to turn, they have to go. You can hear them. We used to milk at 4:00 in the morning. During winter here, I mean, it's black until like 7:30. In order to get the cows, they were in heat, so the bull is out there with them. At 4:00 in the morning we're going out there with this big spotlight looking for the cows because the cows are like, I don't want to get up.
I'm still tired. We have a flashlight in one hand and a bat in the other because we couldn't see the bull in the pasture full of cows, but we could hear them. You can hear him growling at you. You're turning around and looking for this bull, trying to not get gorge, but you're trying to wake up your sweet little dairy cow. You're like, "Come on, Sherry. It's time to milk." And then you can hear him somewhere, but you can't see him. Eventually I was like, I don't trust them. We do a lot of farm tours. What if one of those kiddos jumped the fence? He would charge right at the fence, come right at him, and then stop short of the fence.
I'm like, what if he got out? I couldn't do it. Now we run big lazy Highlands. Half the time when a cow is in heat, I have to encourage him. I'm like, "Come on, Norman. Today's the day." He's like, let me eat some grass first. I'm like, you are the laziest cow I've ever met. Laziest bull ever. Long are the days of me raising dairy cows. To me it's just not worth it. If I wanted dairy genetics, I will AI them. I won't have another dairy cow.
Melissa: Yeah, dairy bull.
Katie: Yeah, dairy bull. Yeah.
Melissa: I'd heard people say, kind of just heard that, that dairy bulls are crazy, but actually seeing that up close, yeah, I'm with you. I'm like, no, thank you.
Katie: No. No.
Melissa: Back to the A2A2 though. For somebody who is wondering that has a problem with dairy or suspects that they do have a problem with dairy, right? They're wondering, okay, I wonder if I am unable to process the A1 and that's my problem. But if raw milk and A2, then I would be good. Do you know is there any tests that you can take or it's just try the A2 and see how you react?
Katie: It really is. As far as I know, there are no tests. I would say 50% of my clientele is lactose intolerant, and then probably another 35% are infants whose mother cannot breastfeed or chose not to breastfeed, or they didn't want a formula. They're able to drink the A2 cow milk because human milk is naturally A2, so is sheep milk and goat milk. When you go to the doctor and you're like, "Oh, I'm lactose intolerant. I'm having these things," and he's like, "Okay, drink goat milk." It's because it's naturally A2, so is buffalo milk and camel milk, which now you're seeing on the market for camel milk, which is funny.
But there's really not a test. Unfortunately, you have destroyed the gut for years and years. Some people will try an A2A2 milk and then say, "Oh no, I had gut issues, or I got a rash." Well, they didn't build Rome in a day. You cannot rebuild your gut flora with three sips of milk. I tell people, give it 10 good days. Take your time. Don't jug guzzle milk if you've been lactose intolerant for 20 years. Don't do that. Take your time, rebuild the flora, and it will come back. The testimonies I have for A2A2 milk is absolutely... It's unreal. I've been able to drink milk as a child, but now as an adult, I can't. I've been getting rashes, or I have bad gut health, or this happens to me.
What I tell people, I'm like, you're not lactose intolerant. You're A1 intolerant. It's causing issues in your digestive system. I actually have lots of clients that their children have autism. The thing with the A1 milk is... BCM-7 is actually a morphine like opiate, which can cross the blood-brain barrier, and that can cause behavior issues and neurological issues. That's where lots of the autism parents come and they're like, I have to try this other product because my child's having these issues. Is there anything else? You're looking for things to heal. We've got great success on our farm with testimonies.
You really got to just got to give it that gut try. I tell people, I'm like, I'm going to take it to a meeting and drink a jug of milk today. Take your time, make some yogurt, heal your gut, and you should get it back.
Melissa: Do you think when someone's testing to see if they can handle the A2A2, if they've been drinking the A1A1, would you recommend almost like a rest period before trying the A2A2, or does it stay in the system very long? There's some things like you consume and they can cause such a reaction that those inflammatory markers are there for so many days post eating whatever the item was or consuming it. You can still be having reactions, but it's not what you're currently eating. It's just taking it that long to clear out of the system. I have no idea if that's the case with milk too.
Katie: I tell people that while they are adjusting to it to focus on gut health. The kombuchas, sauerkraut, fermented foods, yogurts, anything you can do to encourage positive growth in your gut. Don't cold turkey it. I don't think I've ever told anybody to stop and take a month off. I just really reiterate, let's focus on gut health while your body learns to digest dairy again.
Melissa: You I know too, and I think this is an important part, there's the A2A2 and there's the raw, and really when you have those two together becomes that powerhouse.
Katie: It really does. You see now in the market there is what's called A2 milk. As a dairy farmer, I have to be really cautious about how I say A2 milk because it's actually trademarked, and so is the word A1 milk. As a producer, legally I can't say A2 milk. You got to love consumer milk.
Melissa: Wow. It's trademarked. Sorry, that took me a minute to process. Wow.
Katie: In most grocery stores now, you can find A2 milk. It's in a red carton, red and white carton. It's a company out of New Zealand. It's owned by I believe Fonterra, which is the largest traded dairy product in the world, but it is not raw. If you can drink pasteurized milk, or if you don't want to drink raw milk, there is alternatives that are commercially produced.
Melissa: From a gut health standpoint though, I'm with you, it's the A2A2 with the raw and also with what the animal's being fed. Because you can have raw A2A2 milk, but if they're being fed a primary GMO corn, grain-based diet, then you could still have issues with that as well. It's kind of the whole package.
Katie: Definitely. It makes the powerhouse, the A2 and the raw. You can definitely have a reaction to what the cow is eating. Lots of people are really encouraging on, oh, I can only have grass-fed raw milk. Well, unfortunately, here in the Pacific Northwest, we only have 90 days of grass if that. What people don't know is when grass is green and it's lush, it's filled with beautiful sugar. The cow can, they can eat that all day long and have no issues and don't need a grain supplement. Once that hay is cut and it's dried, the sugar actually begins to dissipate. While the stomach of the cow is a giant fermentation bat, you have to feed your sourdough and you feed your kombucha, it's the same with the cow.
You have to make sure they have a carbohydrate to keep that rumen heavy or operating. You don't have to substitute with a GMO. That is what is commercially available. If you go to your farm supply or coop, that is typically what they have. They're filled with corn. They're filled with soy or beet pulp. My main base is a flaxseed. It's just got enough starch in it that it keeps that rumen happy. But I get mine locally milled because I have a specific clientele. I personally have a specific diet that I want my cows to follow and that my clients want my cows to follow.
If you have one cow, it's not easy to just go to a female and say, oh, mix me up 2,000 pounds of special dairy feed. It's easy to grab a bag from your farm supply, but it doesn't always have the best things in it.
Melissa: I know because I have specifically sought out, that you can find, not always at farm supply stores, that part is absolutely right, but you can if you're willing to do some online ordering or to really do some shopping. You will pay more usually for it. But I have been able to find at least a GMO-free version of different feeds to bring in during the off season. Curious about the sugar content in haylage, because you have so much more moisture in there in the product. Does that keep the sugar, or does it tend to drop the same as dry hay, or is it a little bit higher in carbs? Do you know?
Katie: I believe it's higher. We don't have haylage, unfortunately. That's not something that we have here. I'm sure I could get it in. I know animals trades is big on haylage. But if I had something like that, I might not need to supplement. The other thing that people need to consider is cows are just like people. They are not one size fits all. Just because your cow Mary Beth can have a grass-fed only diet, that doesn't mean your cow Daisy can.
They're just like humans. Your sister can eat only salads and she's perfectly perfect, and you eat only salads and your body's weak and your brain's not operating correctly. Not every cow is exactly the same, even if they're related. Every cow needs a specific nutritional plan based on their structure and what they're producing and if they're bred and the nutritional value of the current ground below them.
Melissa: Yeah, no, I think that's really smart to say, because that oftentimes I know we can get excited. I get excited about grass-fed, grass-finish, and that works great with our Angus. It works phenomenally well with Scottish Highland as we just came off of winter and the way they have ate the brush back is amazing.
Katie: They're like goat.
Melissa: They are. I could not believe it. They cleared some sections for us that we were going to have to go in and brush hog. I'm like, look at you guys. Anyways, totally another subject, but I think it's really important that we bring this up that yes, I mean, in an ideal world, grass-fed and grass-finished I do believe is the best way to go. But for sure having went through losing Clover and her not doing as well on that, even though the vet did think that she might have had... Based upon her metabolic lab panels, there was more going on. It wasn't that she wasn't getting the food, something was going on with her ability to absorb it.
But regardless, having went through that, if your animal is not doing well, like you're saying, on grass-fed only, then you have to make some adjustments to how they're being fed. And same thing, I'm sure you probably have experienced this too, is I had horses and some of them did phenomenal during the summer, but you would say, man, they're a hard keeper in the winter. The same thing with the cows. Some of them are just going to require more or in addition things when the weather is really nasty, which here in the West, especially the Northern West where you and I are, I mean, that's a real thing. Our weathers are so harsh.
Katie: They are. You're hay feeding for 10 months, and it's expensive. But every cow needs its own nutritional plan. It's just like people, but we fail. We're like, oh, it's a cow. They're very different.
Melissa: Even amongst the breeds. Well, I know you and I could talk for hours about cows, because we certainly have, but I wanted to thank you so much for taking time out today because I know that you have got some babies that are supposed to hit the ground with some pregnant mamas today.
Katie: I do. We are in Jersey calving week. It is the happiest week. Cheers to milk supply going up and little fresh babies. I just cannot wait. Yes, I need to head back to the pasture and check my mamas.
Melissa: Yes. Thanks for coming on. For all of those of you who are listening and watching, if you haven't grabbed your tickets yet to the Modern Homesteading Conference, you still have time. We would love to see you there, and hopefully you will get to see some milk cows in action. I know we're going to have milk goats, but we're hoping to have a milk cow on site too. We look forward to seeing you there. Well, I hope that you enjoyed that episode as much as I did. As I shared, when Katie and I get to talking about cows, you never know where the conversation may lead.
I got so excited with telling stories and just all of the things that we were talking about that I forgot, normally, you'll notice if you've been listening for a while, when I do an interview, I always ask the guest where people can best follow along with them if they want to go further. Of course, if you come to conference, which you can get tickets at modernhomesteading.com, we hope to see you there in person. But Katie is at millhornfarmstead.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook under Millhorn Farmstead.
We will make sure that we link to those in the blog post beneath the video description so you can check that out and see all of Katie's wonderful cows, including hopefully pictures of those Jersey babies that crossed with a Scottish Highland bull that should be hitting the ground. She was heading out to check right when we got done with this interview. Any day now. This episode is going live within just a few days of us recording it. If you follow along there with her social, I know you'll get to see some fun baby calf pictures.
Now, onto our verse of the week. We are in Romans 8, and this is the Amplified Translation of the Bible. We're in Romans 8 and actually reading through verse 31. We are assured and know that God being a partner in their labor all things work together and are fitting into a plan for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose. For those whom He foreknew of whom He was aware and [l]loved beforehand, He also destined from the beginning foreordaining them to be molded into the image of His Son and share inwardly His likeness, that He might become the firstborn among many brethren.
And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being. What then shall we say to all this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?
I'll say that is one of, and I probably say this every week when I share the verse of the week, this is one of my favorite passages. But really this is one of those passages of scripture that I go to when I need to be reassured. If I'm going through a rough time, or there's a hard situation, knowing that no matter what it might look like, God's word and promise says that as long as I love him and am seeking him and his will, that he is going to work out things and is fitting together a plan for my good. And then the verse 29, and really even 39, but especially 29, is remembering if I start to get a little cocky that God called me.
For every single one of us that are saved and a believer in Jesus Christ or feel like God is tugging at you and you're starting to walk down that path to having a relationship with him and reading the Bible and all of that, none of that is because we... Let me rephrase that. It is because we decided. God gives us free will. We have a choice whether or not we're going to follow him, but it's because he first called us. And that's amazing to think that God called each one of us. He has been coaxing us and calling us. It's not because of our own strength or anything that we did, it's because he loves us and he has been calling us to his side.
That tends to take a lot of pressure off of myself and puts my focus back on where it should be, which is on God. And that also if he called us, which he did because his word says and God cannot lie and his word is always true, then he has justified us through right standing with Jesus Christ in his sacrifice. When we confess Jesus as our savior and come under that blood sacrifice that Jesus' death gave us to wash away our sins, we are put into right standing because we are under that covenant of Jesus, which means that we are justified and glorified through that. Therefore, God is for us, who can be against us?
If you sit and think about that, if you're in a place of worry or anxiety or an uncertainty, which can be very easy to reach those places in today's world, right? But if you just sit and meditate on that, if God is for you, who can be against you? Nobody is bigger than God. Nothing is bigger than God, and he is for you. He is fighting your battles even if you don't see it or even if you don't feel like it. He is warring for you, and he is for you. It doesn't matter who or what tries to come against you. Ultimately, they cannot succeed because God is for you and there's nothing bigger than God. That alone brings me so much comfort.
Sometimes I need to be reminded of it because I am human and sometimes I can let my mind drift to places of anxiety and worry and all of those things. But what a powerful verse. If God is for us, who can be against us? I would love to wrap up our episode with that bit of scripture and reminder to you as well as to myself. I hope that I get to see you in person at conference. And if not, or if so, either way, I will be back here with you next week on our next episode of the Pioneering Today Podcast.
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