What is a cow or goat milk share program?
Healthy raw milk is available in stores in a few states such as California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Mexico; many other states you can buy milk directly from farmers at the farm. However, in some states, such as Michigan, raw milk sales are illegal, even from a farmer with a Grade A license, risking potential loss of his license and jail-time 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, goat or in the whole herd. Even in states where sales of raw milk are legal, the permits (or inspection fees) and ‘milking facilities’ are often very expensive. Cow or goat-share programs allow farmers to provide raw milk to consumers without cumbersome and expensive paperwork mandated by the state.
How Cow or Goat-Share Programs Work
The consumer purchases a share in a milk cow, goat or dairy herd. The farmer and the consumer enter into a contract whereby the farmer feeds and boards the animal and provides the labor to milk the animal 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, they pay the farmer for the service of keeping the cow or goat and his labor for milking and processing the milk into value added products such as butter, cream, cheese, etc. That is, you ‘own’ the animal.
Cow and goat-share programs protect the farmer from liability since the animal “belongs to the consumer” and the consumer is drinking the milk from their own animal.
What does a milk share contract look like?
A contract is a legally binding document prepared by the farmer, the details of which are specific to the ‘author’ or farmer producing the milk. Typically you’ll find the length or term of the contract and cost ‘X’ amount of dollars for the purchase of your first initial share – let’s say $65 per share – perhaps as a one-time cost. One share may provide one gallon of milk for forty weeks (depending on your contract). You may purchase additional ‘shares’ depending upon your milk needs. And/or, you may be charged an additional $6 per gallon every time you pick up your milk. Who’s bottle/container? Is there a deposit…all the details of which should be specified in the contract.
You should plan on visiting the farm, meet the animals and become familiar with your farmer/supplier.