Producer Spotlight: James Swantz Kalona, Iowa

Phil and Amish Farmer

Hi there! My name is Cody Rasmus and I’ve been a Farm Liaison for Kalona Farms, the company that procures milk for Kalona SuperNatural products, for about 11 months.  Earlier this month I had the opportunity to sit down with one of our organic dairy producers, James Swantz.  James has been farming and milking cows since he was a young boy, and has been one of our producers for several years.  He started shipping grass-fed, organic milk in 2007.  He said the transition from conventional to organic was pretty good for him. The biggest challenge James faced during the 3-year, rigorous process, was not using treated seed. Now, James’ farm is 100% grass-fed and certified organic.  He believes this is the best for the animals and the consumers (more to come on this later in the post).

Life on the Farm

James wakes up at the crack of dawn to milk cows every day. It is truly the only thing he has ever known. James was raised on the family farm and loves every minute of it. His great grandfather was the first in his family to move to this farm and start raising his family. James enjoys the farming lifestyle because it allows him to be connected to the land, plants, and animals while providing for his family.

Why 100% Grass-Fed Milk?

Having a certified organic farm is difficult, but James decided that he wanted to do more than organic.  He wanted to raise organic, 100% grass-fed cattle. James believes in the benefits of grass-fed milk. In grass-fed milk, the CLAs (conjugated linoleic acids) can be 3-6 times higher than conventional milk.  CLAs can protect against heart disease and diabetes. Also, the ratio between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is lower which has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Plus, grass-fed milk is full of natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. James says that cows have no nutritional requirement for starches or grains. If the cows are fed only forages when they are young, then they will do very well on 100% forages.

From a farm perspective, being 100% grass-fed makes life a lot easier! James doesn’t have to worry about the type of grain he should plant, how many acres he should plant, harvesting and storing enough grain to get him through the winter. Weed pressure in crops is a huge concern for conventional farmers. This is now a thing of the past for him! James doesn’t have to worry about the extra time and labor needed to manage weeds in crops. He simply controls the weed pressure in his pasture through rotational grazing.  Rotational grazing is used by many organic farmers and is the practice of moving pasture-grazed livestock between pastures.

James is excited to be operating an organic, 100% grass-fed family farm and couldn’t see himself farming any other way!

Types of Cows on the James Swantz Family Farm

James and his family raise New Zealand Holsteins.  These cows are a slightly smaller breed than your typical Holstein cows. The genetics of New Zealand Holsteins allow them to better utilize a 100% grass-fed diet. As an extra bonus, this particular breed produces milk with higher percentages of butterfat and protein!

Eastern Iowa Weather Update

James said that the farm has been doing really well this year. The perfect mix of rain and the sun have been wonderful for grazing pastures! This weather pattern was also great for this year’s flush. The flush is when winter turns to spring and cows are out on fresh pasture for the first time. This makes milk volumes temporarily shoot through the roof. Though this is a wonderful time of year, it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year while trying to remain balanced as a manufacturer. The flush lasted longer than average this year.

A Snapshot in the Daily Life of James Swantz

A typical day for James means getting up and out of the house by 4:30 a.m. That’s early! He feeds the cows in the barn or, if they are out on pasture, he brings them in first thing.  Not a minute is wasted–by 5:30 a.m. he is milking cows! To top it off, his two children are also up to help him with the milking most of the time. It takes the family 1.75 hours to milk and roughly 2 to 2.25 hours if he is milking alone. At his peak, they are milking 70 cows a day! After milking, they turn the cows out to fresh pasture! While the cows start grazing away, the family cleans all the equipment and the milking parlor.

Why James Works With Kalona Farms and Kalona SuperNatural

James likes the fact the Kalona Farms is a small, local company that has worked hard to build personal relationships with the producers they work with. Also, he likes that the milk procured by Kalona Farms is used to make high-quality, organic dairy products under the Kalona SuperNatural™ brand. These products are minimally-processed allowing them to remain in the most natural state possible. James is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for the Kalona SuperNatural brand and is excited about helping us develop new products!

Stay cool out there!

Cody R.