So, I've been keeping y'all in the dark about what's been going on over here... It wasn't intentional, but once it started I got so busy that I just never got around to telling the entire story.
Quite a few people have contacted me in some form or fashion with their regrets that I would probably sell my cows now that I've found that I can't tolerate their milk. My response was always "Huh? Sell the cows? I didn't buy them for myself!" And then I remember that I'm getting these responses because I never fully explained their purpose. These cows ain't going anywhere. In fact, I hope to someday have more of them.
I've been selling raw milk straight from this farm for a little over four years now. According to State law, I could not advertise that I had milk for sale (it all had to be word-of-mouth), I could not deliver my milk, and I could not have more than 9 goats, 9 sheep (dairy sheep, that is), and/or three cows. that was fine with me for a long time. The biggest number of milkers I ever had was four goats, customers would come and pick their milk up, and everyone was happy. For a time anyway. In the last six months, I've found that dairying is my passion in life. Forget the dream of being a vet tech, never mind the thought of being a horse trainer; I loved my goats, I loved milking them, and I wanted this to be more than just a hobby. I was ready to expand and grow into a micro dairy.
But how to do that? Having a Grade A facility would cost an arm and a leg, and I just barely had the money to buy each month's batch of hay. I needed to be able to advertise what I was doing, I needed to be able to deliver, and I wanted to have a minimum of 10 goats. Hmmm, I'm already past the dairy exemption with these plans. I wrestled with this idea for, I kid you not, two long months. I looked for loopholes, I talked with folks, I brainstormed... And of course, the answer was right in front of my face the whole time. Duh.
Enter Raw Milk Herdshares:
It was *perfect*. There was my gateway wide and clear. But wait, you say, what's a "herdshare"??? Dearie, it's the best thing in these here parts, that's what it is. A herdshare is what is sounds like: The seller splits his herd into "shares" and people become joint owners of a cow or goat (or sheep). The buyers then pay a monthly boarding and care fee to the seller, and in return they get 1 gallon of milk each week. For example: Let's suppose we have an average Jersey cow who is giving 5 gallons of milk every day (okay, in the real world there are days of fluctuation in production, but we're imagining here; right?). At five gallons a day, that makes for 35 gallons of milk every WEEK (5 gallons per day x 7 days per week). If each herdshare member gets one gallon of milk a week, then you could have 35 members. They each pay you a boarding/care fee at the beginning of the month, and in return you take their milk to a agreed upon drop-point in town (or where ever it is).
As it happens, Herdshares are legal in the state of Oregon, and these are becoming immensely popular. It was ultra nice for me, since now that I'm not selling milk (I distribute it!) I can have the number of animals that I want/need, and I don't have to worry about the dairy exemption. :)
Once the idea of a herdshare finally came into my head, I was so excited I was practically hopping around everywhere! It was only April at the time, and none of my does were milking yet, but boy did I have ideas...
Then the second thought came to mind: What if I got a booth at the Saturday Farmer's Market as a drop-point for milk? Oh goodness... Why can't I ever think small? Now I was really excited, but I also wanted to check this idea. Was it sound? Was there interest? I spent the next few weeks snooping around, talking with buyers at farmer's markets, market vendors, market managers, and anyone else I could think of. Since the Saturday Market was what I was eyeing, most of my questions went to folks who were there. What would they think of having raw milk at the market each week? Would it affect their buying habits? Would it help or hinder neighboring vendors? Did the managers feel that there was enough traffic that this idea could float?
The feedback was staggeringly good. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE I spoke to was on fire for the idea. Vendors were ecstatic at the thought that it might pull in extra customers for them, managers loved the thought that it might bring in more traffic and would be something beyond the typical veggies, meat, and eggs. Customers got round eyed... Raw milk? Here? At this market? While speaking with a vendor, one lady was listening in on the conversation and finally interrupted to ask if I was really, truly thinking about bringing raw milk to the public. She got so excited she was almost vibrating. I figured that was a good sign.
By the end of May, I knew something: I needed a cow. If I wanted to make this raw milk dairy work, then I needed what the public wanted: Cow milk. Hazel the Jersey/Holstein was the first attempt at this, and as y'all saw, it didn't last. You really do get what you pay for. Then some sweet friends offered me Mattie, and offered to do a pay-as-we-go deal. They knew my plans and my dreams and offered me a leg-up in getting this started while putting payments on the side until I got situated. My grandparents surprised me as well by paying for a huge chunk of the cow and further helping me get started with this. I was in business!
Now, am I at the Farmer's Market yet? Alas, no! But I don't think there's a day that goes by that I'm not thinking about it. I have people already lining up for milk, so part of me wondered for awhile if the market would even be necessary; but I think I may try for it anyway. Goodness knows it would make life easier with that being a permanent drop-point. The nice thing about the Saturday Market is that it's year around, and you have a permanent booth. So I could very easily put a refrigerator in my booth and leave it there. There's electricity available and I don't have to tote my stuff back and forth each week. Kind of like my own little store...
What's my ultimate goal, you ask? Well, just know that dreams change, especially long-term ones. But right now, I'd like to someday see myself with 3--5 cows and 15--20 goats and doing 2 markets a week. I may never get there, but it's a goal. :)
So that's the deal with Mattie. Yes, I'm dissapointed that I can't have her milk, but I'm not worried about it going to waste. My breeding plans for the goats have changed over the summer and now I'm working toward each animal averaging 4,200 lbs of milk each season. I'm bringing in old bloodlines and doing a bit of mixing with new bloodlines to get this, so I'm excited to see how it turns out.
And at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I just love my dairy animals. Even if I didn't have any buyers for the milk, I love these girls. :)
GOaT Milk? I like mine Raw!