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Shorten your learning curve. Register now for Cow-Share College and Goat-Share University.
You can attend these economical classes from the privacy and comfort of your home via the telephone.

Cow-Share Programs Can Save Family Farms!

The demand for quality raw milk from pastured cows using non-toxic, humane and sustainable farming practices is BIG and getting BIGGER.

How are we helping save family farms?  Each week we help 2-3 new family farm members become cow-share operations

For our members we -

  • Provide free legal consultations with Pete Kennedy, Board VP, expert raw milk lawyer and author of www.realmilk.com. He’ll provide legal contracts for farmers (or consumers) who want to start a cow-share and answer questions like
    • What’s the best kind of operation for my state? 
    • Are cow-shares legal in my state?
    • What kind of contracts do I need?
    • What are my risks/benefits?   
    • Do I need an LLC?
    • Does this work for goats too?
    • What’s the differences between a cow-share, herd-share or a farm-share?
  • Teach farmers the basics with free telephone consultations with Tim Wightman, board member, one of the first cow-share operators in the USA and author of “Raw Milk Production Handbook”.  He’s got the answer to questions like
    • How many shares to a cow/goat?
    • What type of bottling system is easiest/cleanest/best?
    • What kind of records do I need to keep?
    • What types of testing do I need to do and how often?
  • Review cow-share contracts for existing cow-share operations.
  • Provide a free copy of “Raw Milk Production Handbook”.

Why We Need Cow-Share Programs

Healthy raw milk is available in stores in California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Mexico. In many other states you can buy milk directly from farmers at the farm.  However, in some states, such sales are illegal; a farmer can lose his or her Grade A license and even go to jail for selling consumers unprocessed milk directly. In these states, consumers have been able to obtain raw milk directly from farmers by purchasing a share in a cow, or in the whole herd. Even in states where sales of raw milk are legal, the permits (or inspection fees) are often very expensive. Cow-share programs allow farmers to provide raw milk to consumers without cumbersome and expensive paperwork mandated by the state.

How Cow-Share Programs Work

The consumer purchases a share in a milk cow or dairy herd. The farmer and the consumer enter into a contract whereby the farmer feeds and boards the cow, and provides the labor to milk the cow and store the consumer’s milk. Such contracts are legal and valid, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America. The consumer does not buy milk from the farmer. Rather, he pays the farmer for the service of keeping the cow and his labor for milking the cow and processing the milk into butter, cream, cheese, etc. However, he may directly purchase other products from the farm, such as eggs, vegetables and meat.

Cow-share programs protect the farmer from liability since the cow belongs to the consumer and the consumer is drinking the milk from his own cow.

The Economics of Dairy Farming

Conventional Small Dairy Economics

Thirty cows in a confinement situation.
Fed high-protein feed to push milk production.
Cows produce 190 hundredweight per year.
Farmer receives $10/hundredweight (same price as dairy farmers got before WWII).
Gross income is $57,000.
No government subsidies (only big farms get those).

Costs are high:

  • Feed (grain, supplements, etc.)
  • Vet bills (cows are always sick)
  • Replacement cows (cows live only 42 months)
  • Artificial breeding (hard to get cows pregnant)
  • Interest on debt (capital to purchase expensive equipment).

Small dairy farmers cannot make a living on this model, which is why in 2002, dairy farms in the US went out of business at the rate of 16 per day.

Cow-Share Economics

Thirty cows on 100 acres of pasture.
Lower production but healthier cows.
Cows produce 100 hundredweight per year.
Farmer provides milk for at least $4 per gallon, equivalent to about $50/hundredweight.
Provides butter, cream and cheese for a price equivalent to about $50/hundredweight.
Feeds whey and/or skim milk to chickens and pigs.
Gross income for milk & milk products is $150,000.
Gross income for eggs, chicken, pork and other products is $50,000.

Costs are low:

  • Feed cost minimal (sunlight is free!)
  • Vet bills are low (cows are healthy)
  • No replacement-cow costs (Cows breed easily, replace themselves, live 12-15 years)
  • Interest on debt much lower (not as many capital costs)

Find Share Holders for Your Cow-Share Operation

Many farmers start cow-shares because they get tired of turning away customers who ask for raw milk. The Weston A. Price Foundation is creating a big demand for raw milk across the country, and world. 

It’s likely you have a Weston A. Price Foundation Local Chapter Leader in your area. They provide an important volunteer function - connecting consumers with local farmers.  Once you’ve decided that you want to be a cow share operator, just give the Chapter Leader a call.  He or she will have customers waiting to buy shares. No kidding!   Click here to find a Chapter Leader near you.  

Next Steps

1. Join the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Once you receive your approval email, you can call and ask to speak with Pete Kennedy for a legal consultation. He’ll send you the contracts you need.

2. Register for the three-part Cow-Share College and Goat-Share University series to learn more about operational and legal issues in a casual conference call setting.

Read More
With a piece of the cow, shareholders embrace unpasteurized milk – August 24, 2008 

Checklist for Cow-Shareholders

Before you purchase a cow-share, be sure that: 

  • Cows graze on unsprayed pasture except during the coldest time of the year and are fed hay and silage when in barns.
  • The herd is tested free of TB and brucellosis.
  • Teats of cows are cleaned with approved solution before milking.
  • Cows are milked in a clean barn or milking parlor.
  • Milk is kept chilled.
  • Milk is tested regularly to ensure absence of pathogens.

Since most cow-shareholders are not farmers, you might benefit from buying the "Raw Milk Production Handbook" by Tim Wightman. It’s an easy and interesting handbook, and can provide you a basis of understanding so the you can have informed discussions with your cow-share operator.