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Grass-fed butter and cheese becoming popular in the north

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Thornloe Cheese, located in Temiskaming Shores, is the first grass-fed dairy product producer in the country.

The company receives all of its grass-fed product from farmers across the north east.

“The uniqueness that we have here in Temiskaming to Powassan and the Verner area. There’s a dozen farmers that carry out grass-feeding practice,” said Thornloe Cheese brand ambassador Pamela Hamel.

“Historically in Canada, it was always an import product, so we were the first homegrown option.”

One of the six farms providing grass fed dairy to Thornloe Cheese is Kunkel Farms located in Powassan, just two and a half hours south of Temiskaming Shores.

The farm produces close to 2,000 litres of milk a day and courtesy of a robot milking machine, it takes a lot less man power than it used to.

“We milk approximately 55 to 60 cows, on the one robot. Everything is voluntary, free choice, cows go in there and milk as they want when they want,” said Kunkel Farms owner Dustin Kunkel.

“The robot often identifies the cow based on her neck collar -- it has a radio tag on it. Then it attaches the milking unit to her then cleans her, milks her, post sprays her and releases her after that."

While all of the Kunkel’s grass-fed dairy goes to Thornloe Cheese, it’s only 10 per cent of what Thornloe uses to make grass fed butter and cheese.

“Our milk is tested for Omega 3/6 ratios. If it ever is out of whack, it would show and dictate and we would be inspected,” said Kunkel.

“The rules are 20 per cent of their dry matter intake can be grain, basically just to supplement their health needs because they put out a lot of effort milking.”

Hamel told CTV News grass fed butter and cheese is on the rise in Canada, but said the company is always looking for more grass-fed farms.

“If there’s more dairy companies that want to supply to the grass fed, bring it on,” she said.

“We definitely do need more. The Canadian marketplace for grass fed is growing, but we certainly could use more.” 

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