We know here in the CSRA, we get a lot of rain and our winters usually aren’t too cold. This makes our area perfect for raising 100% grass-fed and free-range cattle. Hart Dairy in Burke County is the largest 100% grass-fed and free-range dairy farm in the country.
This method is not the norm in the United States for raising dairy cattle, but it is one of the fastest-growing segments of the dairy industry. Richard Watson, co-founder of Hart Dairy, says, “as consumers become more aware of what’s in their food, where it comes from, and how it is produced, are the animals treated well. There is a definite shift. A consumer shift toward things like grass fed.” Maggie Reindl, operations manager at Hart Dairy, added that, “when we look at the longevity of them, the production that we get from them, our herd health system, I can tell we have happy cows.”
Different types of grass are grown during different times of year for the cattle to graze. They are currently growing bermuda, but will switch to ryes and oats during cooler months. This allows for grazing 365 days a year. A recent study performed by the University of Georgia and University of Florida found that the farm also extracts tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Watson said, “it’s about 3 and a half tons of carbon per year per acre that we pull out of the atmosphere, so we are proud of that. Not only do we think this is better for the animals, it’s better for the environment in the long term”.
The natural diet of the cows translates to antioxidants, beta-carotene, and other beneficial nutrients in the milk. Hart Dairy will be selling 2%, skim, whole milk, and everyone’s favorite… chocolate. Their products will be available soon around the Augusta area in most major grocery stores. Hart Dairy is in the process of opening a processing facility in Waynesboro to help them ship their product across the Southeast. They hope to bring many jobs to Burke County once it opens.