“Until the cows come home,” means every afternoon around 2:30 in Ipswich. A herd of 38 registered Jerseys mosey into the dairy barn at Appleton Farms, the oldest continuously operating farm in America, a Trustees of Reservations property.
The Appleton Farms Dairy Store, open to the public seven days a week, is now selling honest local terroir: triple creme, cheddar cheeses, Greek yogurt, and delicate cultured butters, produced on the farm itself, with milk from the Appleton Farm Jerseys.
Heads bobbing, hip bones pointy from calving, full udders swaying, the gentle Appleton herd, anxious for the few cups of grain that rewards them as patient milkers, begin their languid march from pasture to barn at sundown, as dairy cows have done in paintings, prose, and poetry since we began eating cheese. The slow pokes and day dreamers get prodded by Appleton Farm dairy manager Scott Rowe and assistant Justin Sterling with a “hee-ah!” and a “git up!” Doe-eyed, soft cupped ears at attention, these chestnut beasts live well. Except for milking (4:30 in the morning and 2:30 in the afternoon), they spend their time outdoors, eating a diet of 100 percent Ipswich hay, baled either on the 1,000 Appleton acres or on farms nearby.
“The goal is to make the cows as comfortable as possible, and to give them choices — when they can lie down, eat and drink,” Rowe contends. Smelling of clean wood and sweet hay, the “tie stall”-style barn allows enough room for the cows to lie down if they choose; it was once believed that prone cows produce better milk. A particular Appleton Farms problem, the stalls, built originally for Guernseys, are a little too high for the smaller Jerseys, who make a good show of hopping 8 inches up to their places at milking time; some are more graceful than others.