Farms & Cows

A1 and A2 refers to the type of beta-casein—one type of protein found in cows’ milk (the other is whey). Most cows produce a combination of these two proteins. Some scientists and health practitioners believe that cow’s milk with a dominant or singular A2 protein type produce an easier-to-digest milk.

There is a significant amount of science that suggests that after cows were domesticated, a natural genetic mutation changed the amino acids from proline to histidine based, and created a different beta-casein protein, now referred to as A1. A1-dominant cows are usually the larger European breeds such as Holsteins and Friesian, which are most common in the US dairy industry.

We have not invested in any testing to determine if our cows are primarily A1 or A2 cows, or carry any percentage of A1 genes, although some of our farms are independently researching these options as they plan to breed to reach A2 genetics.


As January of 2017, our Milkshed has grown to approximately 108 family farms. About half of our farms are Amish farms. All of our farms are small and independent, with herds ranging from 30 to 60 head. Please visit Our Farms if you’re interested in learning more about these dedicated grass farmers, their families, and their amazing cows.

Our farms raise breeds of cows that traditionally thrive on a pasture-based diet, including Jersey cows, Jersey crosses, Devon crosses, Dutch Belts, and even some smaller Holsteins. Dharma Lea, our lead dairy farm also raises Ohonte cattle, a dairy breed they have developed over the last decade. Their Ohonte bulls, Rex, and his son, Reggie, are bred out to our other farms’ cows to spread excellent grass-fed genetics.

The dairy cows on our farms tend to be much smaller than the cows on large commercial dairies (800-1100 lbs. compared to 1500-1800 lb. Holsteins), but they are efficient milk producers, and their milk has better “components” than most commercial dairy cows—meaning ounce for ounce, higher in protein and milkfat.

As consumers become more interested in their foods’ origin and story, they often want to know what kind of life the animals live. The most common questions we receive at Maple Hill are about dairy cows’ longevity, day to day treatment, and the treatment of their calves.

Cows who live on dairy farms that practice managed grazing have undeniably different lives than cows on large, industrial dairies. In general, their living conditions are much more enjoyable (pasture, sun, and grazing vs. being confined in a feeding barn). Our cows are fed the diet they evolved to eat, and do not suffer from the maladies common in cows fed a grain or corn based diet. The cows on our farms live an average of 8 to 10 years, compared to 3 or 4 for conventional dairy cows, who are culled after production drops.

Unlike some other “100% grass-fed” dairy brands, our calves are never fed supplemental grain, soy, or corn, but enjoy a diet of mother’s milk (direct from their mother or from the milktank, depending on the farm) until they start to graze for themselves.

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