Andrea and I recently bought into a herd share, as a way of obtaining raw milk. Unfortunately, in Kentucky this is the only way of legally obtaining raw milk, short of raising the cows yourself. The selling of raw milk is illegal by state law. There are, however, no laws regarding herd shares. There has been legislation proposed to protect herd share arrangements, but so far nothing has been past. For those of who do not live in Kentucky, you can check this graphic, from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund to find out your state's position on war milk and/or herd shares.
For those of you not familiar with a herd share, I"ll give a brief summary. Basically, a herd share is an arrangement in which multiple people buy a share of an animal, such as a dairy cow or goat. By having part ownership of the animal you are then allowed a portion of the milk it produces. A regular fee is then paid to the person who houses the animal, to help pay for feed, milking, and any other care that may be needed.
I learned of this particular herd share through an online group, and we emailed the organizer a couple of times, before we decided to sign up. The farm is a just over 20 miles away, but because it is on the way to Berea, Richmond, or Lexington, we figured we could manage a trip per week. Andrea will normally be doing the pickup, but I was able to go with her the first day, which was good since I was already familiar with the area in which the farm is located.
On the day of the first pick up, we headed out immediately after I got off from work. We had no idea what to expect, so were a bit nervous. Once we arrived at the farm we were greeted by Amy, who runs the herd share, and then given a tour. We first met the resident farm dog, and then met the cows and calves, and were shown where treats for them are kept in case we want to interact with them on subsequent visits. We were then shown around the barn and milking room.
Amy has a nice setup, with a newly constructed room off of the barn specifically for the herd share. Before the addition of the room she was operating it off of the front porch of her house, which I imagine was less convenient for all involved. She explained the pick up process, which is very straight forward. The door to the room is left open, so we can help ourselves if she isn't around. The milk is stored in a refrigerator so it can be kept cold. Each bottle is labeled, so there is no confusion as to which bottles to take. There is a table to the side on which the empty, and cleaned, bottles from the previous week can be left
There was a $25 up front buy in fee, and a $25 per month fee for the herd share.. This entitles us to one gallon of milk per week, during the milking season, which is estimated at nine to ten months. This is more milk that we typically use, but we expect to be able to find uses for the excess. At $6.25 per gallon, the cost of the milk is less than we'd pay for a gallon of our preferred local milk from JD Country Milk. The fact that the milk we're getting from the herd share is raw, so can be used more easily for things like cheese making, and can have the cream skimmed from the top for making butter or pasta sauce are definite advantages. We're only a few weeks in, but so far I think the herd share is going to work out great for us.