Makin’ Gurt

Pail of Yogurt

We make hundreds of gallons of yogurt at a time in our three 1,000 gallon dairy tanks. The yogurt helps to keep the whey from spoiling, prevents mold and aids in the livestock’s digestion with probiotics – that is to say friendly bacteria. The pigs love it.

The pail above is one I’m about to carry over to a group of weaners in the north home field area. The yogurt is so thick it barely flows through the two inch pipe that crosses under the driveway. On very cold days we risk it freezing inside the pipe near the end so I’m carrying five gallon buckets to them instead.

To make the yogurt we start out with a quart of live culture yogurt and mix it in a clean five gallon pail with some whole milk and the dairy fresh off the truck. The reason for the addition of the whole milk is that often we get whey. Sometimes though we get cream or whole milk for the pigs and then I don’t have to add the milk to start things.

The five gallon pails get cultured in a warm place such as on top of our masonry stove. Once they’ve set we pour the now much larger amount of yogurt into the 1,000 gallon tanks to culture them. If we do that just before the truck arrives with a new load of dairy the in-flowing milk, whey or cream mixes the yogurt we’ve made and then the tank cultures.

Even though the tank is not up at the ideal temperature this still works very well. Time vs Temperature. Once cultured the tanks keep making more yogurt with their every day or other day inflow of fresh dairy. It is almost a self-sustaining continuous flow through process.

Outdoors: 30°F/9°F Partially Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/66°F

Daily Spark: I’m just killing time before it kills me.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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8 Responses to Makin’ Gurt

  1. Luise says:

    Dear Walter,
    I love your blog! It’s highly inspiring (and addictive….)! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences in building, animal raising and farming with the rest of the world! My husband is from VT and even though we live in Europe at the moment we love the Green Mountains and have been eyeing properties there for a while (we found a gorgeous field/place in West Topsham, actually, but we’re not sure if it’s for sale or who owns it).
    We eat a lot of fermented food at home, mostly sauerkraut (I’m German after all, gotta live the steroetype ;)) , but also kimchi (spicy sauerkraut) and fermented dairy products. We’ve made yoghurt in the past, but always with milk and never with whey. How does it work with whey? Does it become as firm and white as it becomes with milk? Does it taste different? We get a lot of whey from making curds from leftover milk, but we usually use it in soups or as a drink with juice. I’m curious about your answer, maybe I’ll try some whey yoghurt soon!
    Have a great day,

  2. kris says:

    Walter – I have found a source of whey for my market hogs this summer/fall. I have seen recommendations to add molasses to make ‘beer’ for the pigs. Can you make yogurt from straight whey? Do you have a feeling for the protein content of this end product. I have many ? about balancing my ration. Last year was my first year with pigs and I just bought ($$) non GM feed from Hiland Natural. While it is a GREAT product I do need for the pigs to be profitable! This year I can get whey and spent brewers’ grains free for the transporting- (gotta love Wisconsin) but I am concerned about the low protein and Lysine. Thinking about having the local mill mix a ration which will help fill those ‘holes’ maybe barley and organic soybean meal +mineral/salt. I am not organic but personally the no GM feed is important. Thoughts?

  3. Actually, this post and other recent ones about the Butter Pigs and House of Cheese are leading up to the answer you’re looking for. Stay tuned.

  4. We too love dairy for our hogs. Blessed to have our own we pour all leftover whole milk (leftover after we sell to ou raw milk customers each day and supply our own needs) into buckets in the warm barn office. Each day the first bucket is moved forward to culture while we add new milk to the next bucket. Husband carries the cultured milk to our milks who are mad for it. Pigs grow well and restauants we sell to love to brag about their milk fed pork. Pigs deposit manure on ground, eventually we either graden or graze cows on that ground and we eat the beef as well as the pork .the cycle just goes round and round. We’re not as sophisticated yet as you Walter but we are getting there!

  5. Walter

    We recently found a supplier for whey and are going to make the switch our pastured pigs from grain to whey. What do you do to keep your whey tank from freezing? Thank you for all the great posts.

    Joshua Rockwood

    • Your climate in southern New York state should be a fair bit warmer than ours so I think you’ll be okay. This year I didn’t worry at all about tanks freezing as it never got below -16°F. When it gets below -25°F I worry. We have placed foil-bubble-bubble-foil insulation on our tanks to insulate them and that is quite effective. If it is going to be very cold I also bank snow up on the windward side of the tanks to insulate them. The whey does not freeze easily and the dairy truck is bringing almost 2,000 gallons of new whey every two days. That new whey arrives with a lot of thermal energy so the turn over helps keep it from freezing as well. Some years I see some freezing in the troughs, perhaps the top 2″ to 4″, on very cold nights.

      The bigger issue is the valves. They freeze fairly easily because of the low thermal mass in the exposed valve which has a high surface area. Plastic valves are more resistant to freezing but break more easily in the cold. Brass valves freeze more easily but don’t break. Stainless steel… well, I can dream. That stuff is way too expensive. Our solution is we wrap heat tape around the valves, cover it in insulation and then run the electric to it. This does not cost much and the money saved in broken valves and wasted time is well worth it.

      The best way to prevent the whey from freezing, or going bad, is to put it inside pigs.

  6. Carol Binkley says:

    just a caution as I have learned the hard way.

    got some whey from a mexican cheese factory and have had 2 rectal prolapses. I think the main problem is that there are several sizes of pigs together so the little ones get too much. So in the future, I will either seperate the sizes and/or feed them less and work up to more.

    The littler pigs were the ones that had the problems.

    • Was this during cooler weather? We find that in cooler weather size separation can be important as well as limiting the numbers in a group.

      It also takes some time for the pigs’ digestive track to adapt to new foods so start out by giving them just a little the first day, then upping the amount each day.

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