My Dairy Goat Adventures: Part 5 Business Lessons


Welcome to our last installment of My Dairy Goat Adventures! If you’re new to the series, find the rest of the story here.

In our first year of “commercial” dairying, I wasn’t really sure how to handle things, and was glad that a few of our customers were also friends who could give us feedback as we tested the waters of this new milk business.

But also because the customers were friends, I was a little more lax than I should have been – and I really paid for it.

Nobody wants to be that hard nosed, hard to deal with business person – we all want to be liked, and I’m happy to work with people’s needs, and work with them BUT..

… I found myself being way to flexible on payment, pickup… Well, everything really.

Before I knew it, I had spreadsheets full of how much milk each customer had gotten, how far behind they were on payment, and how many jars they had out. And then when I finally asked people to pay up, I shaved the price down because I felt so bad about what they owed. Not very smart, I know.

Not only that, but I had let milk pick-up become MY responsibility. I was forever calling and emailing, trying to arrange a pick up or delivery point.

“Well, I really don’t want to come out to the farm, can meet me at…?”

“Can you just let me know when you’re coming to town so I can meet you there?”

That doesn’t really work when you’re running a business.

So I’ve learned some important principles, and enacted some new rules. It’s hard to be tough, but I can’t bend over backward for everybody and still make a profit.

  1. Milk pick up is the customer’s responsibility. If I have to constantly call, you’re out. The end. There are other folks who would be glad to take your milk.
  2. Bring a jar, or pay an extra fee. I started out this year with literally one third of the jars I had last year. Those jars cost literally 2/3 of what I charge for the milk they hold.
  3. Pay up, or go home without milk. Again, this is a business, not a charity. Sorry, but I have to put food on the table too, and if I don’t have money, I’ll take the milk home and feed that to my kids.

I now apply these rules with very few exceptions. Right now, I have a couple of customers getting milk to feed their babies, and I really like that. It’s gratifying, knowing that my milk is going to such a worthy cause, but more pragmatically, baby customers are consistent customers, and yes, I’m much more flexible with them… and I’ll be sad when they wean.

But aside from the business/customer aspect, there are some other lessons worth mentioning. Some of them were no surprise to us because we’d had dairy animals off and on throughout our whole marriage – or in my case, throughout my childhood.

For instance,

  • you’re tied down. You can’t go out of town when you’re milking animals – unless you have a substitute milker.
  • you can’t go for evening outings unless they’re after chore time, and for us, after chore time, our kids are really close to bed time. Also, for us, this is kind of a bummer, when our church family and friends have lots of get togethers.
  • You’ve got to figure out how each goat ticks. Each goat will have unique needs, both social and nutritionally and it can take quite a bit of time and effort figuringing them out. For instance, if Sage and Vanilla are both milking about the same right now, but Sage is getting more drawn down, it’s my job to figure out what’s lacking in her nutrition, and fix it.
  • Speaking of nutrition, you can’t just set them out in the pasture and call it good. You’ll almost certainly have to supplement them with minerals if nothing else, keep them wormed, and ideally, rotate them through pastures to keep fresh forage in front of them, and give old paddocks a rest.
  • You can’t sleep in. Not without planning anyway. I’ve got milking time set at 7:30 right now, so we can kind of sleep in assuming our children let us, but again, that time table kind of puts the kabosh on evening outings.
  • You’re refrigerator can get really full. In fact, a lot of people I know who have a dairy animal, be it goat, or cow, have an extra refrigerator to handle all the milk. We don’t seem to use as much refrigerated food as most folks, so one fridge has worked for us so far – it does get very full sometimes, but usually, I run out of jars before I run out of room, and in that case, whoever is late picking up their milk, is getting frozen milk. Hey, you snooze, you lose.

Well, that pretty much sums up my experience in the goat business. If we could just figure out how to sell cheese and still be legal, things would be much, much different. People virtually climb over each other to get to it. But alas! That’s not even an option right now, and that’s a point I like to harp on. Not so much because I’m bitter about it on a personal level, but because people need to know that their freedom of choice is being infringed upon. You cannot choose to purchase cheese from me. It’s a very sad state of affairs we find ourselves in, And you need to know about it, because nothing is going to change unless you push for change.

I’m hoping to add more to this series eventually, as time goes on, and we have more adventures – but not on a weekly basis.

In the mean time, go find yourself some goat milk, and get on over to the kitchen to try the super easy goat cheese recipe that *everybody* loves!

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