If you own cows or spend time on a farm, then I’m sure you’re familiar with the nutritional benefits of raw milk. You might also have questions about raw milk regulation and how to begin providing access to your customers. In many states, herdshare agreements are used to provide access to raw milk, but the laws can be intimidating! With a herd share agreement, consumers pay a farmer a fee for boarding their animal (or share of the animal), caring for the animal, and milking the animal. Then herd share owners collect the milk from their own animal without any milk sales occurring.
One of the benefits of an FTCLDF membership is help with contractual documents—like herdshare contracts. In 2014 FTCLDF set up a herdshare contract for Kirk and Pat Dotson of Houston Mountain Ranch, a third generation family ranch in Colorado. The Dotsons provide raw milk and other raw milk products from their A2/A2 Jersey cows through a Raw Milk Herdshare Program.
Below, Pat answers some common questions people might have about starting their own herdshare programs.
WHY DO YOU DRINK RAW MILK?
I think it’s an amazing superfood. It has so many healing properties and is so nutritious. I really believe that if we eat the right foods, we can heal almost anything.
WHY DID YOU START A HERDSHARE?
My husband and I retired. We spent a year traveling, and I ended up contracting shingles and allergies to six foods. So I went on a crusade to fix my health, realizing that shopping at the grocery store was no longer an option. We bought two cows that were A2 and started milking! Eventually, the demand grew, and we needed a herdshare to provide raw milk in Colorado legally.
HOW DID FTCLDF HELP YOU WITH YOUR HERDSHARE?
FTCLDF helped us draft the original documents in 2014, and we have been operating ever since!
HOW MANY AND WHAT KIND OF ANIMALS DO YOU MILK?
Our herd are all A2/A2 Jersey cows that are grass fed on rotating pasture. In winter, they are fed grass hay. We try to keep the cows spread out, so they are not all fresh at the same time. We milk 4-5 cows at a time.
HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY SHARES TO SELL?
We milk about 10 gallons a day from our herd. Because our cows eat grass, you can’t take that much from them. We provide 70 shares of milk, for 55 families.
WHERE DO PEOPLE PICK UP THE MILK?
At first, people were picking up milk in the chicken coops. We built a market to have a more controlled environment for people to pick up from. We expanded the milk room with floor to ceiling windows, so people can come to watch us milk!
WHAT KIND OF BOTTLES DO YOU PROVIDE FOR THE MILK?
People are in charge of their own jars. We have a very strict policy regarding the cleanliness of jars. If a jar comes back dirty, the first time we culture it and send it to Colorado State University. We give the customer a written warning, along with the results from the lab. If there is a second offense, the customer is kicked out of the program.
HOW DID YOU GET PEOPLE TO JOIN YOUR HERDSHARE?
Facebook has helped a lot for marketing. We also put ads in the newspaper, but mostly our program grew organically. We have a referral program for current members, so we have grown through word of mouth as well.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO SET UP A HERDSHARE?
Find a resource. FTCLDF was our resource, and it was very helpful. We did not know how to address the local authorities, and having support made all the difference.
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FTCLDF members receive unlimited consultation with attorneys on matters within the FTCLDF mission statement, access to contractual documents like herdshare contracts, a 24/7 hotline to connect with our attorneys, and the possibility of legal representation on matters that are within FTCLDF’s mission statement at no additional cost.
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Services provided by FTCLDF go beyond legal representation for members in court cases.
Educational and policy work also provide an avenue for FTCLDF to build grassroots activism to create the most favorable regulatory climate possible. In addition to advising on bill language, FTCLDF supports favorable legislation via action alerts and social media outreach.