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What goes into your family’s jug of milk?

Bart Ramsey owns Ramsey Dairy Farm along with his brother, Nathan, and his parents, Roy and Rebecca. He has been a dairy farmer most of his life; his family has been involved with dairy farming since the 1930s. They currently farm on about 400 acres in Fairview, North Carolina, about 50 acres of which is leased from neighbors. Ramsey is a graduate of University of North Carolina Asheville and has a degree in chemistry.

We caught up with Ramsey during a recent visit to his farm, and had the chance to ask him a few questions.

Q: What do dairy cows feed on?  

Bart Ramsey: They graze on grasses that we grow, like ryegrass, bluegrass and fescue. In dry weather and from October to April, that’s not enough to provide them with the nutrients they need — they’d starve and not produce any milk if all they did was graze. We also feed them corn silage. Did you know that technically corn is considered a grass? We bale alfalfa at 60 percent moisture and wrap it so it will ferment. It is inoculated during baling with a bacteria that produces lactic acid. We also provide them with probiotics and spent brewers grains that are a byproduct of beer-making. 

Q: What would you say to people who think that dairy farmers give their cows antibiotics all the time or that antibiotics are in conventional milk?

Bart Ramsey: I’d say they don’t understand dairy farming. With the help of our veterinarian, we have a vaccination program to prevent disease. It is illegal to feed antibiotics to dairy cows. We only give our cows antibiotics if they are sick. If a cow is sick and on antibiotics we have to observe a withdrawal period after treatment with that antibiotic ends. Milk cannot be sold until after the withdrawal period. We also do a snap test of our milk before it’s loaded onto the tanker. This ensures that there’s no antibiotics present in the milk.  

Q: What about hormones in milk?  

Bart Ramsey: Cows have to have their own hormones in order to produce milk.  It’s just like when women are lactating and produce milk.  We don’t administer artificial growth hormones and we wouldn’t give our cows any artificial hormones.

Talk to Leah

Leah McGrath is the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets. Follow her @InglesDietitian. Contact her at, 800-334-4936 or at

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