When we got Sage home, I immediately tied her to a picket line in the yard. The farmette she had come from didn’t have any grass, so she was absolutely thrilled with our lawn!
I thought that with all the upheaval, Sage’s milk production would drop at least somewhat, but I was wrong! Within three days of being on grass, and milking twice daily, she was giving at least ten pounds per day! (that’s about 5 quarts). I fell like I’m slowly learning what makes goats tick. They’re such complex animals with their social and nutritional requirements. One of the best things I ever did for my goats was read Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby. Pat’s book is a comprehensive source for almost any problem you might have with a goat, and goes in to painfully thorough detail on dairy goat nutritional requirements.
Once we got Sage settled in, I wanted to start finding milk customers right away, but I was also unsure of how many I could guarantee a gallon of milk per week knowing that her production would eventually drop off, but not knowing exactly how much, so I started putting feelers out at farmers markets and among friends.
A current picture of Sage, A.K.A queen of the hay bale.
I quickly learned that people are easily scared off by the commitment of buying into a herd. What they really wanted was just to buy milk outright – and I couldn’t blame them!
I also learned very quickly that you can make a little money by selling milk, but what people really want are value added products. Things like homemade cheese and yogurt – things that take a little time and a bit of skill to make.
It’s also a lot more profitable. Especially if you’re like me – a one gal operation, who doesn’t really have the means to have a large milking herd.
But… That’s not really legal. It’s frustrating, but its the law. If I had a large enough herd, if I could or wanted to make dairying my full time job, if I wanted to cough up a lot of money to build infrastructure, if I wanted to jump through the hoops, I could become a certified dairy, selling pasteurized milk and dairy products. But once again, I’m a one gal operation, wanting to make a side income to boost the family economy – not make this my full time job!
In the end, we found that once people are educated on herd share programs though, and learn that you will be flexible with them, they’re ready to sign up as long as the buy-in fee is relatively low, and that you’ll buy it back from them if they no longer need or want it.
And so, in our first summer of being a dairy farm, we managed to find an outlet for all of our extra milk, and I began to learn some very hard lessons about being a business woman.
Make sure to check back next Thursday for part five!
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