Cheese Makers Spotlight – 50 States of cheese Volume 1: Dayspring Dairy Farm Alabama
Dayspring Dairy Farm www.dayspringdairy.com (256) 344 0006
Greg and Ana Kelly are groundbreakers in Alabama as the first sheep cheese makers in the state. Following a successful I.T career Greg shifted gears following a visit to a sheep farm in Tennessee. Moving an hour north of Birmingham, the couple put their new plan into action to establish the 30 acre Dayspring Dairy in Gallant. A huge amount of work entailed to get ready to launch their new cheese venture in the state. A 5000 square foot barn was refurbished, and a milking parlor and cheese plant were constructed.
The next step of course was the sheep, but Alabama threw up some unique challenges. The heat and humidity led to some issues with parasites, but this was overcome. The East Friesian breed was cross-bred with the Gulf Coast sheep, technically native to the States but originally from Spain three hundred years ago. Although not a dairy sheep like the East Friesian, the Gulf Coast sheep has adapted perfectly to the region. Cross-breeding has proven to be a great success for Dayspring Dairy.
Now the herd of 120 sheep is approximately 25% Gulf Coast-75% East Friesian, something Greg feels is the perfect mix for the success of their business. “Yes, we get a fraction less yield, but that is offset by not having sheep unable to be milked because of worming issues, something the East Friesians suffer from down south.” While Greg manages the herd, Ana is head cheese maker, and their two year slog to get established and licensed has paid off. Being higher in fat, the sheep cheeses tend to be richer and creamier. And a winner in Alabama.
It turns out the demand for sheep milk cheeses is proving to be a hit. “We took our frying pan to our farmers’ market where we gave out samples of our halloumi. There hasn’t been one market where we haven’t sold out by 10am.” They currently have 200lb of sheep milk Gouda aging in their cave right now, and this year are producing a delicious sheep milk feta. The people of Alabama are clearly very lucky to have Dayspring Dairy providing such unique and varied cheeses.
They have a saying at Dayspring Dairy: “Our sheep, our hands, our farm.” Amen to that.
Check out Ana and Greg at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=araXp8Kobsw&hd=1
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