Michael Roux Jr. of Shapleigh, shown here with a milking shorthorn cow named Daydream, has recently debuted Roux’s Farm LLC raw milk with his family. At 22, Roux has been farming for a while and fulfilling his dream.  TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SHAPLEIGH — On the day Michael Roux was born, his father, Michael Sr., bought him a cow, a milking shorthorn the family named Maxine. It was a signal, perhaps, of what was to come. Young Michael spent 13 years in 4-H, and showed his cows at agriculture fairs across the area. He still does.

One year, the family took in 14 agricultural fairs.

Now, at 22, with hours and hours of hard work both behind him and ahead of him, with help from family, and a determination to achieve a goal, young Michael is the leader of Roux’s Farm LLC, and is producing raw milk for the marketplace from the farm in Shapleigh.

It is a family venture — his parents Michael Sr. and Jennifer are involved — with Michael Jr. at the helm.

“I’ve wanted to milk cows forever,” he said.

Michael Roux Jr. of Shapleigh talks about how the milking process operates from the milking parlor of the family farm in Shapleigh, where he and his family members have begun producing raw milk for the retail market. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Farming seems to be in the family’s blood. On his father’s side, locals may remember Conrad Roux and Sons Dairy, which produced Elmwood Farm milk, then later operating Roux Poultry Farm, in Alfred. As well, his maternal great-grandfather, Howard Chick, operated a family farm in Lebanon.

These days, the 10 milking shorthorns and holsteins that produce Roux’s Farm LLC milk live in a brand new barn, complete with a milking parlor and milk room Michael and his family built, just down the hill from his parent’s home on the Roux property off Walnut Hill Road. Two years ago, the land was covered in trees. Now, the building that houses the milking operation sports the traditional ‘barn red’ paint, and Michael’s apartment on the second floor has a bird’s-eye view of the cow barn below.

Michael Jr. works a full time welding job at Hussey Seating in North Berwick, pulling 10 hour shifts four days a week, and some overtime, and then comes home to do the afternoon milking and barn chores — his father does the morning milking.

Before starting his business, after finishing his day job young Roux would make his way to Biddeford, where he milked 30 cows and did farm chores, his mother said.

He doesn’t do that now, because he’s busy with his own barn chores, and producing raw milk, but he’d like more cows to milk.

He’d like to have 40 to 50 milking cows someday, Michael said on Friday, but he’s building the business one step at a time.

Right now, Roux’s Farm LLC, which has produced raw milk for consumers for a little over a week, is available in Shapleigh at L’il Farm Bakery on Owl’s Nest Road, and is looking for more retailers.

The production of raw milk for retail sale is on the rise in Maine, said Linda Stahlnecker, dairy program manager at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

“It’s been growing over the past number of years partly because people want to know where their foods come from,” said Stahlnecker.

She said there are 39 licensed producers of raw cow’s milk for the retail marketplace in Maine and 26 who are licensed to produce goat’s milk for retail sale.

Roux Farm LLC and all others who wish to sell raw milk to consumers undergo an exacting process to be licensed to sell raw, non-pasteurized milk. Farms are tested for cleanliness, water is tested, there are bacteria counts and a number of other requirements.

Roux’s last test came in at less than 9 percent of the state’s allowable bacteria count.

And the latest butterfat content test came in at 3.75 percent.

Laurie Beth Fowler, owner of L’il Farm Bakery, not only sells Roux’s Farm milk in her bakery, she’s made the switch to using it in all her bakery products that call for milk. She said she’s noticed a difference.

“Some products are richer because of the higher fat content in the milk,” Fowler said.

Inside the barn on Friday morning, Michael and his mother led Dragon Attack, Prezzy and Daydream into the milking parlor to demonstrate the milking process. The three milking shorthorns were reluctant at first because they’d already been milked a few hours earlier, but soon got into their stalls. The milking parlor is built with a well or pit, so Michael or his father can stand below the cows and hook up the milking machinery, a much easier method than if they had to do so from the barn floor.

Each time they milk the cows, the animal’s teats are pre-stripped (milked) a little by gloved hands before they are hooked up to the milking machines.

That, said Michael, is because some bacteria sits lower in the cow’s udder, and the pre-stripping removes it.

The 10 cows produce about 130 gallons of milk every other day, Michael estimated.

Cleanliness is a priority. Lines that carry milk from the milking machines to pipes that carry it to the stainless steel tank in the milk room are washed several times both before and after milk passes through them.

Once in the stainless steel tank, the milk is cooled to 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and then it is bottled for market in half-gallon and gallon jugs.

There are no additives, said Michael.

Each cow in the herd has a name, and the product, he noted, is local.

“It’s a more natural product,” Michael  said of the raw milk produced. “And you know where your milk comes from.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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