A Visit to Dayspring Dairy, by Market Manager, Lisa Beasley
Gallant, Alabama, Etowah County
30 acres of rolling pasture with 2 spring-fed ponds
Dayspring Dairy is set in the rolling pastures of north Alabama and home to Greg and Ana Kelly, their children and sixty-five sheep, scores of spring lambs, chickens, cats, and dogs. This home farm is focused on raising healthy, happy sheep and creating top-shelf cheeses and spreads from their sheep’s milk.
Dayspring Dairy’s Fresca varieties
Alabama is not typically known as a sheep state – and Dayspring Dairy is just one of a handful of farms in the state which specializes in raising sheep, and the first to produce sheep’s milk products. Greg and Ana started Dayspring about 9 years ago and started producing delicious cheeses a year later after much trial and error.
Greg’s background is elementary education and the tech industry; Ana had experience as a food stylist and chef, so starting a sheep farm from the ground up was a challenge for both. Greg and Ana purchased land in Etowah County which was a former cattle farm, and quickly began converting it into a home for their sheep.
Ana took classes in cheese making. Greg spent time learning about sheep breeds, milking techniques and equipment and worked to construct a commercial kitchen onsite. With the help of his right-hand man, Ted, the two men now work full days on the farm, milking, caring and lambing the large flock. Greg and Ana work together on creating a flavorful variety of sheep’s cheeses like feta, fresca spreads, and flavorful caramels which they sell online, at their farm store and at local farmers markets.
Dayspring Dairy signature caramel spreads
Their current flock is a combination of different breeds of sheep, from East Fresian to Awassi, Lacaume and Gulf Coast. Sheep do not produce large volumes of milk, but what they do produce is thick, rich and flavorful. Sheep’s cheese is often a good choice for those who have trouble eating cheese. Like goat’s milk, sheep’s milk is easily digestible and less likely to cause gastrointestinal symptoms and inflammatory responses.
The month of March is usually the busiest for them since it’s lambing season at the farm. Each year, Greg welcomes an increasing number of lambs to their flock. In 2021, he expects his ewes to produce about 130 baby lambs. He will keep all the female lambs; the male lambs will be sold, with Greg keeping one or two for breeding later on.
Greg Kelly holding a baby lamb
Sheep are gentle creatures and Dayspring Dairy’s flock of “girls” are well cared for and loved. Their newest ram is kept in a pasture alone since rams can be unpredictable. But this youngest ram is a beautiful creature, gentle and quiet and loves to have his head scratched! It’s easy to see the affection Greg and his year-old ram have for each other.
Greg checking on his ram, whom he affectionally calls “Rampage”, to say hello and offer a good head scratch
Unlike vegetable and fruit farmers, dairy farmers work not just with the state Department of Agriculture, but also must adhere to strict standards and inspections from the FDA and county health department. These visits and inspections are often weekly, year-round.
Mama sheeps eating lunch while being milked
Currently, the farm is expanding not just its flock, but also its distribution. Greg and Ana will continue to sell their cheeses to the Market at Pepper Place in Birmingham, and to Peachtree Road Farmers Market and Freedom Farmers Market, both in Atlanta. Visitors can also shop at the farm store and purchase cheese, caramels and jams and jellies – plus see the flock and even get a picture taken with a newborn lamb.
Dayspring Dairy adds a bold, fresh flavor to any occasion!
Visit their website, follow them on social media and support them directly.