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Horse milk "gift from heaven"

Before long, many of us may be drinking milk from horses (more precisely, from mares) instead of from cows. "Most people feel much better after drinking horse milk," Hubert Peffer wrote in The Draft Horse Journal. "Given that the industry results in happy and healthy customers, happy mares, happy foals and happy horse milkers, horse milk just may be a gift from heaven."

Horse milk is rapidly gaining popularity in several European countries. It was delivered door-to-door in Germany during the First World War (1914-1918), Clare Chapman wrote in London's Sunday Telegraph, adding:

It is now back in favour with health-conscious consumers because it is rich in vitamins and minerals, is easily digested and has just 1.5 per cent fat, compared with 3.7 per cent for cow's milk. It is also priced as a delicacy, with a litre costing as much as 11 (7). [$Au17, $US13].

A decade ago, the milk was produced only in isolated German smallholdings. Now there are dozens of large-scale operations in France, Belgium and Holland, in addition to Germany and Austria.

The article featured an interesting interview with Nadine de Brabander, who runs a horse farm with her husband, Frans, near Lier in Belgium.

Using that as a lead, we found the website of the horse dairy farm Het Brabanderhof, a site well worth visiting. Nadine says:

All our mares are Belgian draught horses that live together with their foals in one big herd on the pasture and in the open loose yard. When the foals are eight weeks old and therefore able to eat hay, grass and concentrates themselves, we start milking the mares.

In the morning the mares are separated from the foals in another loose yard, so we can milk them 5 times a day (every two and a half hours). For a good milk production and the well-being of the foals they get healthy and varied food the whole day through...

"Horses are different from cows in that mares need to have their foals with them to lactate," Nadine told one interviewer, Susan Wilanda. "We milk the horses five times a day and the production is 1-1.5 litres at a time. During the night, foals do the job."

In Ireland, Helen Goormans of Flagmount and her husband Daniel sell horses' milk at Killaloe farmers' market every Sunday. "It's a unique natural product, full of essential vitamins and minerals, and it's ideal for people who suffer from various allergies and intolerance," Helen told Patricia Feehily from the Limerick Leader.

The couple sell frozen milk from a Belgian friend's 16 draught mares, and also sell powdered horse milk.

FOOTNOTE. Donkeys' milk isn't quite the same as horses' milk, but Peffer mentioned that the Austrian Empress Sissi never travelled without a bunch of jennets [female donkeys] providing her with enough milk to fill a bath tub every day. And we all know that Cleopatra bathed in asses' milk to keep herself trim, taut and terrific.

 
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Story first posted March 2005

Copyright 2005

Eric Shackle

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