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On the morning of Sunday April 15 I headed up to Fergus to Ewenity Dairy and met Eric and Elizabeth Bzikot for the first tour in the Skill Building Farm Tours Ecological Livestock Series! In the morning we toured the dairy where they receive sheeps milk from a network of farmers who form a co-operative. The milk is pooled and Elizabeth turns it into a variety of products including delicious yogurt, fresh cheeses, even ice cream! At lunch we tried the yogurt. I would highly recommend it, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for this product in stores!
The Bzikots stopped milking a few years ago so they could focus on the dairy processing, but they still keep a nucleus flock and are working on the genetics in order to sell breeding stock. They are wholly committed to the welfare of their animals, and emphasized that it is vital to create a stress free environment for the sheep. Elizabeth could not stress enough how sheep are sensitive animals and you’ve got to pay attention to their needs, and be gentle and calm around them.
The highlight of the day was how Eric and Elizabeth, who have years of experience, were so gracious in sharing their wealth of knowledge with the group. They were very encouraging of people to start small on-farm dairies, and work on developing a local market. Elizabeth talked about how in France; the farmer milks in the morning, and uses that milk which is still warm from the animals, to make cheese in the afternoon. They are then able to sell all or most of their products locally. From a sustainability perspective this is the way to go, not to mention the excellent quality the cheese.
I was inspired by this tour to pursue my interests in learning more about dairy farming, and cheese making. In fact it has always been a goal of mine to move to Quebec to work on a dairy farm, and learn how to speak French and make cheese at the same time! I had a great day at Best Baa and am looking forward to the next tour in the Livestock Series on Pastured Poultry!
Rebecca Hodges – Training & Resources Intern