There’s an old saying in the dairy business that “the cream rises to the top.”
For dairymen these days, this increasingly means rising in the sense of vertical integration. Low dairy prices are forcing many producers to be ‘one-stop shops,’ where not only cows are milked, but the finished product is made right there on the farm.
For the Flowing Hills Creamery in Belmont, finding success has meant exactly that—bottling milk from the same folks who have been there for generations. Owner Carlton Salley said mixing things up is good for his farm, just like it is for the milk, which isn’t homogenized.
“We’ve got Holsteins, Jersey and Brown Swiss cows out here,” he said. “In homogenization, you break down enzymes that your body needs and by doing what we do, you don't break those enzymes down."
At Flowing Hills, the Salley’s also pasteurize their milk a little differently, again to preserve what is naturally healthy in this milk and destroy potentially harmful bacteria found in raw milk.
“We do a low-vat pasteurization,” Salley said. “We get to about 145-150 degrees for 30 minutes and then we immediately cool it back down. From the time we start our process, our pasteurization, we try to have it back cooled down and ready to bottle within two hours.”
The pasteurizer on the Salley farm isn’t new. In fact, it used to be the Smith Creamery vat, another pioneer in dairy integration in Louisiana. After an explosion destroyed the creamery in June of 2011, it sat unused until Carton Salley bought it.
The destruction of one creamery led to the rebirth of dairy in Sabine Parish. Even though Salley has been raising dairy cows since 1979, he got out of the business in 2008. Just last year, though, the Salley’s decided the only way they could make it in the dairy business was to bottle and market their own milk. They planned to start small. This pasteurizer changed that plan.
“It was 600 gallons and we had to change the complete form of the plant and ad o to it before we even got started,” said Brenda Salley. “So, it's like God just dropped in and opened those doors and so, we just have to pasteurize more. We get it out to the public and want it more every day.”
Husband Carlton agrees.
“I never intended for it to grow like it has, but I've been well blessed,” he added.
The Salley’s got out of the dairy business six years ago for the same reason many dairymen are--it's tough to make ends meet. It's his experience at a local farmers market directly selling dairy products that changed his mind.
“I knew that it was going to be ok when you have local return people, you know, just come back with their ice chests after two or three weeks,” Salley said. “I knew then that it was going to be ok.”