At the Weston A Price Foundation Kamloops Chapter potluck, we had a group discussion about starting a herdshare program in Kamloops. If you would like to receive further information about starting a local herdshare program please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will put you on the email list for people wanting further up-dates. We need people willing to volunteer their expertise to get this project operational. Below is a summary of the conversation:
We talked about basic structure of the herdshare and how the structure must protect the landowner, agister/milker and shareholders. This means there must not be any question of who owns the herd. The herd must be jointly owned by the herdshare members. All the benefits and risks are jointly accepted by the herdshare members.
The basic structure will have three contracts. One contract is for the landowner for rights to pasture and house the cows on a given acreage of land. This would include water use for pasturing, if required. The second contract goes to the agister/milker for daily milking and care of the cows. Both contracts could be with the same person or different people. The third contract would be for shareholders. This contract would outline the member’s responsibility to pay a share price to become a member. The share price would be used for the purchase of cows, equipment, and start-up costs. A second part of the contract would be a quarterly fee for the boarding of the cows. This cost would be based on the pasture lease fee, hay, milking and processing. This cost could be increased if something unexpected occurred.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund has sample contracts so we do not have to start from nothing. We have copies of Wild Thing Organics cowshare contracts and l may be able to get contracts from Home on the Range and Birdsong Farm Herdshare. We need a lawyer to look at the sample contracts and write something up for the Kamloops Herdshare Program. This can be done later if we decide to move forward with the herdshare.
Amounts of Milk
Young cows produce less milk than older cows. A cow normally goes into peak production after about three pregnancies. Cows also go through a seasonal cycle of production. Management of the cow/calf relationship also affects dairy production. We can get more milk out of the cows by milking twice a day. This happens 12 hours apart, but we must have staffing for two milkings a day. This is a very hard split shift and makes people not want to continue the work. The agister/milker needs to be well paid and have holiday relief or we will lose our agister/milker.
A young cow will produce about 3 gallons a day and a cow in peak production will produce 6 gallons a day. If we use the lower numbers for a younger herd, we are talking about 21 gallons a week per cow or 63 gallons for three cows. How many families this can service depends on individual family use. A family would buy one or more shares depending on their personal needs.
We talked about costs. From my experience with our cow Patty, milk costs over $10 per gallon to produce. This includes the cream, which is a very valuable product which can be made into raw butter or consumed fresh. This is a very specialized product and it will cost more than store bought milk. Becoming cost effective should be a goal of the herdshare.
The quarterly costs of boarding the cows will involve the lease payment for pasturing and housing. The biggest cost will be for the contract to hire the agister/milker. To milk and process the milk of three cows, would require about 2 hours of work, twice a day, seven days a week.
One of the biggest problems of dairy production is the farmer becomes married to the cows. The easiest way to solve this problem is to not milk all year round. This means not having a fresh milk supply for a number of months each year. During peak summer and fall production, individuals who want milk all year round can freeze milk for the winter. The Weston A Price Foundation recommends seasonal milk for a number of health reasons. Milk produced from cows on fresh pasture is of the highest quality. Milk from cows fed hay is of poorer quality. It is better for the cows not to be milked in later pregnancy. The cows have healthier calves and the cows will live longer.
Sources for Jersey Cows
We had a brief conversation about cows and equipment. I told the group that we have a great resource with my contacts with Home on the Range (Alice) and Birdsong Farm Herdshare (Naomi). Naomi Fournier has given me a list of six local breeders for Jersey cows:
1.? Joni DeWitt (250)836-4206
2.? Jake Konrad, (250) 546-6069
3.? Don Hendrickson (250) 838-7942
4.? Thys Haambuckers (250) 546-0346
5.? Jennifer Pretty (250) 838-0556
I have talked to the first two people on the list and both have cows for sale. Jake Konrad gave a $750 price for a pure bred Jersey cow. Assuming these are quality cows, this would mean the base cost for the herd would be $2250.
Herdshare Equipment for Milking and Processing
If we have more than three cows, hand milking is not practical. We will need milking equipment and a filterer. Equipment is expensive but we could buy it used. It would be best to have a dishwasher and refrigerator for the milk. Most herdshares use reusable 1L wide mouth Mason jars with plastic caps. This can create a return problem but glass is best for milk. Yoghurt can be simply made by putting the jars of milk and culture into a cooler with warm water for the night. If we wanted to make raw butter as a group, we would have to look at industrial kitchen equipment to do this job efficiently. Otherwise, individuals can make raw butter at home. My guess is we would need about $2500 to cover used equipment costs.
Growing the Herd
The cows will need to be artificially inseminated once a year. We do not want the cost or risk of having a Jersey bull around. We have a 50/50 chance to get a female calf which can be added to the herd. She can be breed after 16 months. The males become grassfed veal. The products from the veal calves are to be split between herdshare members. The females are added to the value of the herdshare and will require some sort of “share split” for the increase of the value to individual shares. A link to a local company that does artificial insemination is Westgen.
CFAI Funding from Interior Health
Interior Health is funding Community Food Action Initiatives. I talked to Casey Hamilton and she said there might be funding for starting a herdshare program. She was very excited about the program and suggested we apply.
Call to Action
1. We need a core group committed to the Kamloops Herdshare Program. That group would do a fair amount of research without compensation. Anyone interested in volunteering their time and expertise is needed.
2. It would be good to have a herdshare member that is a lawyer and one member that is an accountant or bookkeeper. If anyone knows someone with these skills who would want to be a member please contact me at info(a)eatkamloops.org.
3. Christine Rougeau will write a grant application for CFAI funding. Regardless of if we get government funding, we should be willing to fund the herdshare ourselves.
4. Does anyone have the expertise to pick a quality Jersey cow? Krystal Williams is a 4-H leader and will try to find people with dairy cow expertise. Chris Harder has volunteered to check out the Jersey breeders in the area and learn more about cows.
5. I will try to get sample contracts from all my sources. I will try to get more details about costs from other herdshare programs.
6. Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) has courses on starting herdshare programs. I will look into this option.
7. We will be needing to find used milking equipment. If someone knows about dairying equipment and would be willing to help, it would be greatly appreciated.
8. We are looking for farmers or ranchers willing to take a contract for pasturing and housing our herd. We are looking for a person willing to be under contract as our agister/milker.
Updated November 17, 2009: This is an article I found on the Weston A Price Foundation Leaders Bulletin Board called The Raw Milk Revolution. Another link is to an article in The New York Times called Raw Milk Sales Could Reinvigorate US Dairy Farms. Please note the referral to the Canada listeriosis outbreak. The article is not talking about Maple Leaf Foods and how their processed meats sickened thousands and twenty people died. For more information about this issue read Slaughtering in BC: Information You Need to Know. This is a typical spin done in mainstream media about the dangers of raw milk. We don’t see people outlawing processed meats, do we.
Updated December 2, 2009: I found a source for Portable Milking Machines. Local used equipment would be cheaper. I hope everyone is on the look-out for used equipment.
Updated December 11, 2009: Naomi Fournier of Birdsong Farm found this essay on herdshare formation called Don’t Let Your Herd Share Agreement Land You In Court.
Updated December 19, 2009: I got an email from Interior Health about the grant application for the Community Food Action Initiatives (CFAI). Interior Health has decided not to fund the Kamloops Herdshare Program.
Updated January 21, 2010: Michael Schmidt, Raw Milk Activist, Acquitted!
Updated February 23, 2010: I have not been able to find an agister/milker. I have found some possible locations for pasture. Choice of location for pasture is tied to the location of the agister/milker. I have shelved the project for this coming spring.
Updated May 1, 2010: Here is Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures talking with Dr. Joseph Mercola about raw milk standards and testing. Here is the link to the 20 Raw USA Standards he mentions in his discussion. He discusses why raw milk is healthy to drink. This is a line to the Organic Pastures website if you would like to read more about his dairy, which may be the largest raw milk dairy in the world.
Updated May 31, 2010: Here is a very interesting set of videos about running a raw milk dairy by Tim Wightman of Farm-To-Consumer Foundation call Chore Time I and II.