Micro Dairy?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by debitaber, Feb 23, 2005.

  1. debitaber

    debitaber Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,061
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2003
    with ten acres, you would do well with goats, and cows take up much more land, and require much more food.
     
  2. NWSneaky

    NWSneaky Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    266
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2005
    Don't do it. Hauling expenses and laws/regulations are going out of sight; Time & labor vs. return are horrific. The same effort for a neighbor, handyman, etc. is far more profittable.
     

  3. Fran on MD Eastern Shore

    Fran on MD Eastern Shore Terminally Single

    Messages:
    8
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Coastal Maryland
    We had the same idea, as we had plenty of Jerseys and goats to get milk from. But the regulations were so ridiculous in the state of Maryland that it just wasn't worth the work and expense. If you can get away with selling it without any government types finding out about it, I'd do it that way. But I was warned that they would come down really hard on me if they discovered what I was doing. Food imported from other countries faces no scrutiny, but try to make and sell some homemade cheese, and you'd better be ready to justify everything you do and you had better be doing it their way. After a few meetings with the bureaucrats, we decided against the whole idea. A friend of mine with a fairly large dairy operation who actually has some bucks to do what they wanted came to the same conclusion.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.
     
  4. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,622
    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2003
    Location:
    Maine
    Get a good Jersey for yourself and sell the milk to friends if you like (or dare). When you're talking 6 or 7 gallons of milk a day, take a gallon for yourself, then sell the rest at $3.00 a half gallon (Smiling Hill prices), it won't take long to make a dent in your mortgage...unless you're in Falmouth or something.

    If you're in central ME, I'll buy a bunch...for my pets, of course. :no:

    Here's the link for the ag rules:
    ftp://ftp.state.me.us/pub/sos/cec/rcn/apa/01/001/001c136.doc

    If this link doesn't work, go here: http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rules/01/chaps01.htm
    and click on CH. 136
     
  5. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    Messages:
    6,844
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    As noted some people get around the regulations by selling the milk strictly for pet consumption. People bring their own containers. What happens to it after it leaves your farm isn't your responsibility. In a way this also gives you a legal out if someone should blame a human health problem on the milk. You can cite it was clearly sold for pet consumption only. Don't play games on that aspect, such as a wink and a smile when 'pet consumption' is mention. Try to play it totally straight your sales are strictly for pets. Make your own label along the lines of "XXX Farm Fresh Pet Milk" which "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION' in large bold letters.

    Approach the state officials along this line, indicating pet consumption sales only, and see what obstacles they put in your way.

    Almost no dairy farmers really did well on milk alone. Most (at least when we had two when I was a kid) made their money off the pigs raised on the side. There were called 'mortage lifters' and filled in in-between the milk checks. However at that time they could be nicely raised on tankage from local slaughtering plants, whey from local cheese plants and skim milk (which didn't have a market at that time) from creameries. Dairy farmers may have had a comfortable retirement, but it may well have been funded by the appreciation in land value, not income from the dairy.

    On the first one I remember the folks having chickens (both boilers and eggers), sheep, hogs and the dairy herd plus growing sugar beets. Even then Dad worked the night shift in Milwaukee when it wasn't planting or harvesting seasons.

    Dairying isn't going to lift your mortgage - sorry.
     
  6. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    7,576
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Canada
    Maybe the milk you get would be better utilized as supplement to grow milk fed chickens or mix with pig slop. Seems that is the only thing to justify keeping a milk animal for your own use and the suggestions above.
    How about considering meat goats for that acerage?
     
  7. travlnusa

    travlnusa Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,245
    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2004
    Location:
    WI
    We do pretty well with raising hogs and chickens for sale to customers via word of mouth. We only raise during non-freezing months so I am not having to heat water all winter long.

    We also raise bottle calves. Lots of dairy farms around us. I buy their bull calves and raise them to about 500lb and then take them to the auction. We will keep a few to raise for beef upon request of hog/chicken customers.

    My wife and boys do 75% of the work as I travel for a living. We did the math and she makes as much running the farm as she would working off the farm, and is able to homeschool our boys and buy those extra things my paycheck cant quite cover.
     
  8. diane greene

    diane greene Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    297
    Joined:
    May 12, 2002
    In my state of NY artisan cheese is a big product. Maybe you could make this seminar:

    NEWS FROM THE SMALL FARMS PROGRAM AT CORNELL

    TOPIC: NYS Farmstead and Artisan Cheese Makers Guild PR
    DATE: For Immediate release, February 23, 2005
    CONTACT: Tracy Frisch, 518/692-8242, tinargyle@yahoo.com

    The NYS Farmstead and Artisan Cheese Makers Guild will be hosting its third annual meeting, 10 AM - 3:15 PM, Tues., March 1, 2005, at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta,12 Ford Ave., in Oneonta, NY. This will be a valuable introduction to the Guild for anyone who wants to make cheese or help others get started. You must become a member of the Guild to attend, and membership is open to all.

    Guild members range from current and aspiring cheese makers to cheese retailers, chefs, and fascinated fans of handcrafted cheese. As a Guild member, you will have special opportunities to get acquainted with cheese makers, enjoy their cheeses, and gain insights into cheese making and cheese enterprises. Membership information is available at www.nycheese.org ($25 and up).

    Our program on March 1 includes a virtual tour of Windhaven Farm sheep dairy; a Cheese Maker Panel; Board of Directors' report; open forum; breakout sessions; update on regulations with NYS Agriculture and Markets; assisting new and future cheese makers; promotion and outreach/Launching Friends of the NYS Cheese Guild; dialogue with Cornell representatives; and Board Election.

    Join us for an energizing day with the NYS Cheese Guild. Hear three cheese makers' stories and taste Guild members' small production cheeses. Share your ideas for the Guild, learn about the Guild's exciting initiatives, and come away fired up about your part in this growing sector of artisan food producers.

    RSVP greatly appreciated. For more information about the Guild visit www.nycheese.org. To register for the meeting contact Tracy Frisch, organizer, 518/692-8242 or tracy@farmandfood.org or Jane North, Guild president, 607/849-3328. For more information on a variety of small farm topics, visit www.smallfarms.cornell.edu.
     
  9. deb

    deb Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,649
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2002
    Location:
    WI
    I hate to say it, but when we were house hunting we ran across a family that tried to start a Micro Dairy. The husband & wife had been raised on dairy farms and they had 4 young sons.

    We met them because they were going bankrupt, auctioning off the dairy equipment and trying to sell the house and acres before it got sold on the courthouse steps. They had got a mortgage to buy the house and land (11 acres), then got a farm loan to get the dairy equipment and cows. Besides working at their micro dairy, the husband and wife were both working in town.

    The dairy didn't pay for the mortgage, it sucked money from the mortgage. All the money they made in town was sucked into the dairy equipment and expenses. They had over-extended themselves financially and they struggled to get ahead, but each time something went wrong in the dairy, either the dairy production or the house payment got suffered.

    They lost the house because they had signed a farm loan that used the house & land as collateral. Yes, the house & land already had a mortgage on it so they had actually borrowed more money than the dairy, house and land was worth.

    It was a really sad situation because they had dairy farms in their blood, but they hadn't done their home work before starting the project.. They didn't have a business plan, they didn't know how much start up money the dairy would take before it could become a viable business, they didn't have the money saved to start the dairy so they had to get a farm loan and they risked their house and land because they didn't have any other way to secure the loan.

    I tell you this cautionary tale because you have a lovely dream right now, but you will need to spend a lot of time researching and planning your business before you will even know if the business can actually make money.

    good luck
    deb
    in wi
     
  10. FarmerJeff

    FarmerJeff Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    100
    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Ok- I'll play the other side of the coin. We are organic vegetable farmers. We are in the process of purchasing a property that has sufficient tillable land, but also a lot of pasture. We need to make the pasture pay. We are starting a four cow micro-dairy CSA (community supported agriculture) program. We have already developed a long list of people who are willing to pay upwards of $9 a gallon for organic raw milk.

    What's that you say? Can't sell raw milk? You're right! However, it is legal to consume if you own the cow. As such, the cows on the farm will be solely owned by the CSA members who will pay us a certain rate to milk and maintain their cows. This is going on all over the country and has survived numerous legal challenges.

    If you are in Maine, you might also want to check out the Maine Cheese Guild
    for ideas regarding adding value to your milk.

    www.mainecheeseguild.org

    Don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. But let me say this: To succeed in micro-farming, you need to be 60% marketing genius and 40% farmer. All the people that told my wife and I that we couldn't do it are still living in crummy apartments and working worse jobs. We have done it and are better for it.
     
  11. diane greene

    diane greene Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    297
    Joined:
    May 12, 2002
    FarmerJeff - Did you consult with a lawyer about that method of selling raw milk? I know it would not fly in NY. What are the legal implications if one of the CSA members get ill and blame you? I'm all for what you are doing, I just want to make sure you have the best loop hole possible.

    I know a friend with raw milk. It's OK to give it away as long as you specify it is not for human consumption. We tell people we give it to our pets. Technically it's free, but I have to buy a $5 pen with each quart. Buy a pen get a free quart of milk - that's how it works here.
     
  12. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

    Messages:
    337
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Location:
    MN
    It sounds like that you'd need to buy some of the feed if you're going to have dairy, goats, beef, pork and chickens, but that doesn't necessarily mean it won't fly.

    I'd definitely check with your state ag. department, but there is a site called www.naturalmilk.org that indicates raw milk sales are legal in Maine, so all this non-sense about cow-share programs and milk for pets doesn't appear to be necessary.

    Here's what I'd be worried about if I were selling raw milk. Someone getting sick from: salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, brucellosis, yersiniosis, listeriosis, staphylococcal enterotoxin poisoning, streptococcal infections, tuberculosis and E. Coli 0157:H7 infection that are present in raw milk. Least you think it woudn't happen, it already has in some states, including Minnesota. Now, I realize that mentioning that there is a risk in drinking raw milk will get me shouted down by some, but you can look at the existing research and make up your own mind.

    Another thing is that if your gross sales are over $5000, you will need to be cretified organic. If you had a Jersey who gave 15000 lbs. of milk in a year, which is good but not spectacular and you sold all her milk for $3/gallon, you'd be right at the $5000 gross. You can go to www.usda.gov and search for the National Organic Program and they'll have links to the certification process as well as state contacts. I don't know how much it costs as my dairy operation is neither micro- nor organic-, but you might be able to get a cost-share grant to help pay the cert. costs. I read somewhere that Maine has the highest percentage of certified-organic dairies of any state, I think it was 7%.

    Whatever you do, I'd talk to some people already doing it to get more info about the organic certification process. I wouldn't put too much stock into what people say who aren't engaged in dairying, and I wouldn't be so confident that even cow-share arrangements are bullet-proof from a legal perpsective.

    This will make this post long, but I can't provide a URL link to this WSJ article about raw milk sales and cow-share programs. It really varies significantly from state to state.

    Got Raw Milk?
    Not Unless You
    Own Your Own Cow

    Farmers Offer Bovine Stakes
    To Bypass Health Rule;
    Wisconsin Sours on Plan
    By KATY MCLAUGHLIN
    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
    September 11, 2003

    Robert Corya, a retiree in Indianapolis, craves a substance that Indiana law forbids him to buy: unpasteurized milk. He and his wife drink eight gallons of it a month, and he believes it makes him healthier. "Tastes like melted French vanilla ice cream," he says.

    Mr. Corya can slake his thirst thanks to a dairy cow named Charlotte and a loophole that is setting off battles over milk across the U.S. Laws in Indiana and other states allow cow owners to drink raw milk from their own cows. So Mr. Corya bought a share in Charlotte.

    Today, there are more than a dozen cow-share programs in the U.S. Farmers Mark and Deborah Apple of McCordsville, Ind., who launched a program for Charlotte and their other cows early last year, say demand is so great that people sometimes burst into tears when told they have to go on a waiting list.

    Ever since Louis Pasteur first invented it back in the 1860s, pasteurization -- flash-heating liquids to kill bacteria -- has been one of the world's great food-safety discoveries. Today, as a precaution against common milk-borne pathogens including salmonella and E.coli, it is required for all milk sold to U.S. consumers in interstate commerce.

    But a growing group of raw-milk lovers, from people who grew up on farms to devotees of organic food and health gurus, say unpasteurized milk is not just delicious and nutritious, it is also good for everything from arthritis to lactose intolerance.

    Aajonus Vonderplanitz, a popular author in the raw-milk underground, says he has cured himself of cancer and diabetes with an all-raw-food diet. Today, much of the appetite for raw milk is being whetted by the Weston A. Price Foundation, a Washington-based group that promotes traditional foods such as grass-fed beef and unpasteurized milk. The foundation, established in 1999, has quickly grown to 150 U.S. chapters with 3,500 members.

    State laws about raw milk differ. In California, it is legal for licensed dairies to sell it in stores. In Wisconsin, and in 21 other states, it is illegal to sell raw milk, even from right off the farm.

    In 1999, Wisconsin dairy farmers Gleta Martin and Tim Wightman started hearing from customers that they were looking for a source of unpasteurized milk. They started a cow-share program, which had been tried by others elsewhere on a smaller scale. Consumers bought a $10 share in a particular cow, such as Louella or Anabell or Twila. As owners, they were entitled to the milk. Then, each time they picked up a gallon, they paid the farm, Clearview Acres, a $2.50 "boarding fee," ostensibly to compensate for care and housing of their cow.

    Wisconsin regulator Thomas Leitzke says the division of agriculture initially approved the cow share, thinking it would benefit just a few people. But word quickly spread and within a year and half, 265 families had joined. The tiny, debt-burdened farm's income increased by a third. "It was the most wonderful thing that ever happened" in her 27-year career on the farm, says Ms. Martin.

    Farms across the country quickly took notice. U.S. dairy farmers have been getting as little as 94 cents a gallon this year, the lowest prices since 1978. But people eager for unpasteurized milk have been willing to pay as much as $12 a gallon. Cow shares popped up in Virginia, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Utah, Florida and Washington.

    Wisconsin officials say they grew alarmed by how large and commercial the Clearview Acres' cow share had become. The farm was advertising it in the local paper. The division of agriculture sent out an employee posing as a shareholder to take samples of raw milk for analysis in the state laboratory. Though the milk was found to be wholesome, the division sent Clearview Acres a letter in April 2001 informing the farm that it was canceling the cow-share program.

    "We made a mistake. We never should have let them do it in the first place," says Mr. Leitzke.

    But Mr. Wightman and Ms. Martin refused to quit, arguing that the cow share had been established with the state's blessing. The bickering continued until December 2001, when the farm was implicated in an outbreak of campylobacter, a pathogen that gave 75 people in the area bloody diarrhea, fever and nausea. This time Wisconsin officials shut down the cow share and declared all such programs illegal.

    Health officials said that 70 of the 75 people who got sick had drank milk from the farm. Mr. Wightman denies that his milk caused the outbreak, saying his tests showed the milk was clean. He believes people got sick from eating hamburgers or Thanksgiving turkey.

    Cow shares in other states have also run into trouble with regulators. Last fall, the Apples in Indiana received a cease and desist order from the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, accusing them of operating a dairy without a license. Farmers in Colorado, Tennessee and Texas say their raw-milk operations have also been heavily scrutinized.

    Raw-milk defenders fought back. Clearview Acres spent a year and $27,000 in legal fees wrangling with Wisconsin officials. The Apples logged hours at the law library. And the Weston A. Price Foundation set up a fund to support cow-share programs.

    Some shareholders rebelled in their own way. Billy Belt, an Indianapolis schoolteacher and father of three, was incensed. At night, when he was sure no state regulators were watching, he sneaked into the Apple's milk shed and smuggled out milk, leaving a few dollars on the table.

    Today, armed with new legal structures they hope will shelter them from pasteurization laws, both farms have restarted their programs. Clearview Acres has stopped dealing with the department of agriculture and registered with the Wisconsin division of securities instead. Today, people buy a share of the farm's dairy license and enjoy a "shareholder privilege" that allows them to buy raw milk. Fifty families have signed on to date, Clearview Acres says.

    To strengthen the argument that their customers are true cow owners, the Apples have asked them to get more involved in animal husbandry. So now the shareholders, mostly suburbanites and city folk, hold semiannual meetings where they decide things like what to feed the cows and how many times a day to milk.

    Health regulators in both Wisconsin and Indiana say they still frown on using loopholes to sell raw milk. They haven't yet taken a good look at the new programs and can't say whether the farms are breaking any laws.
     
  13. FarmerJeff

    FarmerJeff Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    100
    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Yes, we are working with an attorney. All indications are that it will legally work here. Here are a few links:

    http://www.realmilk.com/update_su04.html

    and from NH Department of Health and Human Services:

    Can raw milk be sold in NH?

    No milk or milk products, as defined by NH Administrative Rules, shall be sold, offered for sale or served unless pasteurized. Only the following milk products shall be acceptable for sale or use:

    Pasteurized fluid milk and fluid milk products; and
    Dry milk and dry milk products made from pasteurized milk and milk products.

    This does not prohibit the direct sale of raw milk or cream from the producer, store or milk pasteurization plant to the final consumer, milk or cream from a producer to stores, nor the serving of raw milk at bona fide boarding houses where the milk is produced on the premises, provided that in the dining room of such boarding houses a sign is prominently displayed stating that such raw milk is served therein.

    Raw milk and cream may be sold directly to the consumer from the farm but not through stores licensed by the Food Protection Program.


    Ah, the great state of New Hampshire! Live Free or Die! :D
     
  14. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    You really, really have to be on top of the legal & marketing games to make any money on this. Obviously, you need to find customers willing to pay 3x the normal price for your products.

    Finding legal ways to do this is tough. You can't claim your product cures cancer, as in the post above this. You will have issues with selling raw milk in most states. You will have insurance and/or lawsuit worries. You can't utter the word 'organic' ever unless you are certified to be so in the govt regulations - a lot of hoops to jump through there.

    Producing milk takes protien. Grass doesn't produce a whole lot of protien. You need grain or alfalfa or one heck of a good feed plan to make 'just grass' work out profitably.

    Can you do it? sure. It will take a whole lot more on the ball with planning & marketing. Raising & milking is the simple work.

    So, how good are you at marketing & paperwork? That is where most of your time will go.

    --->Paul
     
  15. FarmerJeff

    FarmerJeff Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    100
    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    And MilkStool- I'm not sure that I'd call a cow-share program "nonsense". If people want to get in line to pay me upwards of $9/gallon for milk as well as an annual fee for cow "ownership", that's just fine by me. In my neck of the woods, the successful (read: Surviving) farmers are those who are employing new ideas. Hate to say it, because we can all learn from it, but farms that didn't get creative are now residential subdivisions where I live. So, nonsense is all relative, I guess.

    PS- The best is going to be when I sell them compost and potting mix from their own manure. Won't that be a status symbol for the SUV crowd?! :haha:
     
  16. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

    Messages:
    337
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Location:
    MN
    FarmerJeff, Just curious, how much money have you made from your micro-dairy so far?
     
  17. FarmerJeff

    FarmerJeff Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    100
    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Ah, touche! You are right. And it is much easier to make money on paper than in practice. However, that's the same comment that people said to me when we started our vegetable CSA. My response was, "I am a hardworker and good businessman. Many other people have successful CSA's. I see no reason why I can't be amongst that number." Now, four years later, we have a CSA that varies between 50 and 60 members each year, with a waiting list twice as long. We also do bang-up business at local farmers' markets and a variety of restaurants. We have a large, loyal well-established customer base. Surveys of these customers have identified a large demand for raw-milk.

    Now, everything we sell is first-class, top-quality. If it has a blemish, it gets eaten by me (FarmerFood), our volunteers, our chickens or our pigs. We don't sell anything that's not best quality, so our customers have learned to trust us. But to put our customer's open-mindedness into perspective, these folks buy all our garlic scapes (tops) for $3/lb. We used to compost these. Based on their explicitly stated interest, and their past history of paying top dollar for crops a lot weirder than raw milk, I think I can say that I have a ready market.

    Hence, I am extrapolating that: 1.) As a component of an already successful diversified small-farm with an identified demand for raw milk at a given price; and 2.) Being a person who is not trying to get rich on dairy, but rather develop a use for an underutilized piece of land...I think I can make 3-4 cows pay.

    I don't want to seem cocky. I have tons to learn, but I am willing to do so. Its just that the words of people that told me "You can't do that" are the mantra that I hear in my head when I need motivation. And since we started, at least two of the people that doubted me are no longer farming (which is a shame, because any farmer is a good farmer in my book in this day and age). And just as a point of reference- nothing is subsidized for us, farming is our total income, and we are not wealthy refugees from the corporate world. I was a carpenter and my wife was a forester.
     
  18. bethlaf

    bethlaf Homegrown Family

    Messages:
    747
    Joined:
    May 26, 2004
    Location:
    N.Ar
    heres what i would do , if like you i were commited to making this small dairy idea work , look at it as part of a small farm marketing plan , you might want to look into the book"making your small farm profitable"
    i believe firmly in being a homesteader and making it pay means i am a business person , you do the research , a small dairy, like your talking might be able to fly, i know here in ark. theresa lot of small farm things i can do without too much regulation, for example, i can sell 30 dozen eggs a week without inspection , i just have to label them a certain way, and i can sell to consumers grocers and restaraunts ...

    there has to be a way, i would seriously talk with the local FSA office, and your local dept of ag, theres a possiblity they will help you with this, i think a small farm with 3 or 4 cows , a nice field of organic berries as a pic your own , or pumpkin patch ( waste can be fed to cows)
    or similar should net you enough to cover your bills, and a modest income , say 1500 a month
     
  19. Farmer Brown

    Farmer Brown Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    71
    Joined:
    May 28, 2002
    Not "micro" will put some money in your pocket if your not afraid of work. I been doing it as a sideline to other work and put from$30000 to $40000 in my pocket each year. If you have a coop or milk buyer you can hookup with it's a low hassle lifestyle. No boss, no bull. Just put good milk in the tank and get a CK in mail twice a month. 17 yrs so I should know alittle about it.
     
  20. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    Messages:
    6,844
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Milkstoolcowboy pointed out past (and current) health risks from raw milk. That is why I would still consider the 'pet consumption only' aspect more beneficial (safer from lawsuits). However, as I noted, I do not recommend playing games, such as a wink or a smile or free with a small purchase. Leave no doubt it is not intended for human consumption.

    When I was in Croatia in 2001 I was shown 'the village dairy'. Three cows. Facility wouldn't have even passed a Grade B inspection in the U.S. The owner commented she made about as much money selling the manure as the milk. Seems she had the only cows around anymore and manure was still prized as a compost pile additive (and they garden very, very extensively there).