Contented cows give quality milk for TMK Creamery
Just 10 minutes outside downtown Canby lies a place where cows live, eat and contentedly give milk for some of the tastiest cheeses in the area. And, sometime late this summer they are likely to begin providing milk for ice cream for hungry and hot area residents.
TMK Creamery was established in 1987 when Todd Koch got his first heifer. Through the years the family firm has provided milk to the area but it was Todd's sister Shauna Garza who decided the outfit needed to make cheese.
The dairy started when Todd was 12 and bought that heifer. Since then he's built the herd to around 35 cows with about 20 Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss cows that are milked twice a day, 365 days a year.
New stock comes in the form of calves mostly bred from the farm's cows. One of these is a month old and one about a week old, there's also a couple that are 13 to 15 months old, getting ready to be bred. These are the young stock from recently born to old enough for breeding. During the heat, the young stock are separated from their moms until they can head out to the pasture again.
All cows are registered and they've been providing milk for about 20 years. Todd and his wife Tessa also have an 800-acre ranch near Klamath Falls with about 150 head of beef cattle and farm acreage that produces the alfalfa and grass hay that surrounded and feed the animals at TMK Creamery.
Clean is the byword for the entire dairy and creamery. That fit's the family's objective to create cows that increase the quality of the herd. Todd notes that a quality cow offers them better milk and end products with less trouble and breeds fast and easy. When expanding the herd they look for traits that present high quality animals.
Part of keeping that quality high is how they take care of their cows. On one of the hotter days of the summer the milking cows were settled under a roof, out of the sun, enjoying a cool breeze from electric fans. They were in an area that any person could have eaten off of and kept clean in order to ensure they produced quality milk, according to Marc. "It has to be very clean to affect the milk's quality, cleanliness means we produce high quality milk," he told the Herald.
This quality care follows the animal through its entire life. Some dairies sell their cows when they're too old to breed. But the animals at TMK, retire. For example, there's one at 22 years, whose current job is to roam the pastures and just enjoy herself. "When the cows no longer can be bred, they get to roam around and just be," Marc Koch said.
Among their herd are certain cowlebrities, such as Amber, her daughter Annie and her week-old granddaughter Abby, who should be ready to be bred when she grows from today's small calf to a full grown cow at 13 to 14 months old, said Marc. All three are Jersey cows with the sweetest faces and giant eyes.
Their milk produces the cheese in a building near the milking part of the farm. Todd and Marc's sister Shauna wanted to make cheese and went to Oregon State University's pilot plant. While she was learning recipes and the cheese-making process, the rest of the family began looking into building permits and doing market research to provide exactly what their new customers would want.
But this took more than just learning what to put in and how to make cheese. Shauna spent a considerable length of time building her education on food safety. She had to spend time researching what people liked in cheese and how to get the optimum amounts of flavor into the cheeses she was making ensuring high quality and food safety at the same time.
Now they have a separate building for making cheese whose front serves as a tasting room and sales area. They offer three varieties of curds; plain, chipotle ranch and garlic dill. They have four different kinds of cheddars including just cheddar, pepper flake, dill and smoked. And for those who love Mexican food, there is Caso Fresco.
The Kochs are planning an Aug. 21 grand opening at 10 a.m. at the farm at 27221 S Dryland Rd. They currently sell their cheese at the farm, at Ebner's Meats, Cutsforth's Thriftway and on Thursdays at the Molalla Farmers Market.