Commercial goat dairies

Discussion in 'Dairy Goat Info' started by LMonty, Apr 6, 2008.

  1. LMonty

    LMonty New Member

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    Would anyone know if theres a good reference online to the economics and management of small commercial goat dairies?
    Was having a discussion with a neighbor that used to do cow dairy, now just beef. He is seriously considering it, well, at least he siad he was, though I doubt he'll follow up. But it did get me thinking about it, and I was trying to run some numbers in my head. I have no idea of the various factors that have to be taken into consideration on the daily running of a small goat dairy. We do have a Meyenberg processing plan the next town over, and there are several herds that sell to them locally. The management at the one ive seen was not something I'd want to emulate (the word appalling comes to mind) so theres no way I'd want to get info from that source!
    Biweekly pickup by milk truck and no onfarm processing would make it fairly easy compared to operations that have to process/bottle their own.
    Its a lot of work, but I actually might consider working towards this if the economics wre right, so I can retire from my day job someday soon!
     
  2. Kaye White

    Kaye White New Member

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    You might want to find out what the processing plant is paying for milk and that will give you idea if you want to go commercial. Several years ago, they weren't paying enough to even cover feed cost...not to mention other added expenses.
    JMO...I didn't even consider it then and with the rise in everything now, I sure wouldn't.
    Kaye
     

  3. goatkid

    goatkid New Member

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    I agree with Kaye. My introduction to the goat world was working at a small commercial dairy. By small, you're still looking at milking over 100 goats twice a day and having more than that so you can keep freshening them. The goats were machine milked into a large tank and the milk hauled to the cheese plant every 2-3 days. My friend struggled to keep the operation afloat and finally sold many of her goats and some of her equipment to a man starting up a dairy. The cheese plant didn't always pay for the product and she is still owed thousands of dollars. Then, there was the problem keeping responsible help who actually cared for the goats. I caught one of the guys hired to do the milking beating a first freshener when she kicked. The poor doe didn't know what was expected of her. Another guy had an alcoholic seizure in the milking parlor. Since the milk was sold, the kids had to be fed replacer. Bucklings had to be hauled to auction and there were lots of them. My job entailed helping feed, care of kids, delivering kids and being the one who basically kept an eye on things when my friend hauled goats to auction or other dairies as well as giving meds and helping get goats ready for show. Then, there were the dairy inspections and dealing with an inspector who insisted on using the tests designed for cows rather than goats. It was a good education in goat care for me, but I'd never want to run a commercial dairy. It's much easier to maintain good herd management with a smaller herd. There's no way it would be economically feasible to CAE test a whole commercial herd, for example. This is why so many commercial herds don't worry about eradicating the disease. I'm thinking of the producer my friend sold her goats to. Let's just say I would not buy a goat from that man. Kathie
     
  4. Laura,

    The big thing with going commerical is that you have to put aside personnal feelings for the goats. That is the one biggest thing that I have seen most people dont do. When in a dairy setup...they are just a number. I know that people are going to say that they are not...but honestly they are. They need to produce a certain amount of milk a year if they dont...then out of the barn.

    To really make a living you need to be milking about 200-300. That is really where you see a break even point. Since your tank no matter if its 200 gallons or 2000 gallons. It runs night and day, the milk pump runs the same way. Then you get to chemicals, it takes the same about of soap and acid to milk 1 in a pipeline as it does 1000. So, you need to break that up a bit among the goats.

    The AR market is VERY unstable. They have stopped picking milk up a month sooner than they said they would and really you have no clue when they are going to start picking up milk. A seasonal market sounds nice...but you have to be on top of your breeding program. Since you can not have a doe freshen in 3 month in the milking season and make you a dime. In most dairies they figure you only make money the last 2 months you are milking that animal. Before that you are just paying the bills. So, are you willing to sell an animal that does not breed to hit that window?

    The NZ'er are artists at the seasonal dairy setup. They will freshen for 45 days...day 46 anything that have not freshened is sent to the market. Since, they dont want to have a younger animal that takes the same amount of work for just a few head. Then coming breeding time for them, they are smaller and younger. Its all about money...hate to say it but it is.

    But, before you start anything with the AR plant. Have it in writing what they are going to pay and IF they will take you on. Goat milk markets are different than cattle. Since plants will only produce so much product. There is very little surplus takers when it comes to the milk. Also, make sure that you are wanting to milk that many head.

    Ken in MO
     
  5. LMonty

    LMonty New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback, guys! I appreciate it.
     
  6. buckrun

    buckrun New Member

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    An alternative idea for a commercial venture would be to start something small and exclusive where the herd could still be a manageable size. There is a great article at Cheesemaking.com about a small bottling venture. Look for it in the newsletter archive.
    Bigger is not better and there will be an increasing backlash to unethical and unsustainable farming practices among people who can afford to pay more for everyday things.

    Lee
     
  7. Anita Martin

    Anita Martin Senior Member

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    I agree with everything everyone is saying about commercial dairies. I grew up around cattle dairies, and they were DISGUSTING. Help was hard to find and too expensive so the cows lived in filth, even at the "clean" organic dairies. The babies at VA TECH were no better off. They were housed in small pens that reeked like dead animals. Cows are nice and I don't hate them, but are impossible to keep clean. Goats, on the other hand are easy on the land, and easier to handle, not to mention friendlier and funnier and much sweeter. Put them in a commercial setting though, and all that goes down the drain. You might as well be raising cows, which would probably be smarter since the goat milk market it so fickle. Most people that get into goats do it because they love goats. Rarely do you find seminars, classes, books, degrees, etc. focusing on profiting off goat dairies because the market is just so small. Ask a group of people about goats milk and most of them will turn up their noses, although I am guessing most of them have never been to a cow dairy and seen where their milk actually comes from :rofl The goat milk market is small and I am certainly no expert, but starting small and building a reliable clientel, based on your farm's cleanliness and friendly goats, that people could visit and even milk a goat, just might make you the odd dollar or two somewhere in the future. Making your own exotic cheeses and soaps will also increase the amount of money you make off each gallon of milk. As far as extra bucks and wethers? What about training them for pack animals or to do tricks before selling them? Human Kids love them!
    Just a thought or two.
    Anita
     
  8. Tricia

    Tricia New Member

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    Hi Laura --

    Commodity milk is just one way of being a commercial dairy, and hard for me to see those economies work and have the type of operation I would want to run.

    My business is very small, and it's a value-added commercial operation: I produce farmstead cheese. As cheese, my milk winds up being worth just under $300 per cwt. That can work for me.
     
  9. BlueHeronFarm

    BlueHeronFarm New Member

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    I agree with Tricia. The only way we could make it work when we ran the numbers was to focus only on cheese.
    Our research led us to a VERY small herd by commercial standards and a dedication to hand crafted, higher end products.
    So far so good - ask us again in a year. ;)
     
  10. NubianSoaps.com

    NubianSoaps.com New Member

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    The big thing with going commerical is that you have to put aside personnal feelings for the goats. That is the one biggest thing that I have seen most people dont do. When in a dairy setup...they are just a number. I know that people are going to say that they are not...but honestly they are. They need to produce a certain amount of milk a year if they dont...then out of the barn.
    .......................................

    This is huge and needs to be read again. Bottom lines on most folks herds would improve even the much smaller time cheese, or sold on the farm facilities if goats were treated as livestock and not pets.

    No way would I ever dairy and have the end product not be sold by me, there is simply no money in it. You become not even the middle man. Contracts are virtually meaningless in fluid milk sales. Vicki
     
  11. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels New Member

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    Agree with all of the above. I tried it for two years and could not do it. The plant in Yellville doesn't pay enough to cover costs and I couldn't keep my girls like I wanted. I also cannot distance myself enough to handle the higher losses that come with the higher numbers. Although it was my idea to start with, halfway through I broke down after a *very* emotionally harrowing week and called Dad, screaming/sobbing into the phone "I just can't do this, I quit"!! Which, anyone who knows me can tell you, is just *not* like me. :sigh
    We got through another year after that point but I am so very glad to be out of it now.
    With dairy goats, less is more unless you have a *very* good set-up and a very good market!
    I was just looking through my past years calenders yesterday and the two from those years brought tears to my eyes. I lost two of my favorite does during that one week two years ago. Those two years brought much large-herd goat knowledge......but they were hard also.
     
  12. goatkid

    goatkid New Member

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    In commercial dairies, production is everything. Therefore you will find goats who can milk volumes, but you wouldn't want to take in the show ring. I'm thinking of one of the Nubian bucks at the commercial dairy I worked at. My first Nubian does were out of him. Felina milked at least two gallons a day, but her udder attachment left alot to be desired. I kept her daughter and sold her to a dairy. I'ts taken me four generations of breeding to get a doe with a nice udder who also puts lots of milk in the pail. Kathie
     
  13. LMonty

    LMonty New Member

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    Excellent input, guys, I truly appreciate it!

    The word I got secodn hand was they were paying about 22.80 cwt. The thing is, I dont want the size herd that I'd need to have to make money doing this. I really dont see myself over 20 does or so max, at least not at this point. I could do more- but then the changes it woud require really eat up the time I'm trying to save.

    The model I was hoping for was something along the lines of the small farmstead cheese operation,something like Blue Heron Farm is doing. Since we can legally sell a small amt of milk here off the farm I can start with that, looking for a market for it when I'm ready-next year. I thought maybe soaping and cosmetic production might be a good fit, but when I went to the local festivals theres a LOT of folks doing it around here. Not sure if theres a good enough market for me to get involved beyond the personal use hobby level.

    I'm really looking at the goat business being one facet of making our little farm pay for itself, and then hopefully producing an income. If I can get some idea of how to set up a commercial cheese operation I could run the numbers and see ifit will produce the type of income I'd need in order to ditch my fulltime day job and run it. First would be to pay for all the buildings and equipment- and that I'd want to do a little at time over a couple of years, so I go into it without owing loans. By then, I'd have some idea of what I'd need to make on it to have it work for me. Between baby sales, milk sales, the pigs, poultry,beef and market garden...adding dairy in might just be enough to get us through. Those other facets will take a few years to grow to where they are producing their share, too...
     
  14. Sondra

    Sondra New Member

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    Trica built her own pasturizer for her cheese operations and all the details are on her website.
    If you buy one new it is like $10,000 or so someone told me here last week so getting set up legally maybe rather expensive. But then again it all has to do with AR LAW and what they require. Here in TX I believe by next year or two the laws will be changed and setting up a cheese business here is going to be very hard.
     
  15. Kaye White

    Kaye White New Member

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    That's a heck of a long way from $22.80 cwt. That's also the figure I've heard. I think it got somewhere in the $28 neighborhood...but that STILL doesn't cover near the expenses. I just really have never figured out how the dairies that sell to them stay in business. Grapevine says, a lot don't.
    Kaye
     
  16. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels New Member

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    Our milk sold for $22-$23 per hundredweight.......I've seen some of the dairies that have "made it" on those prices......not pretty is all I can say. :?
     
  17. Heck at $22 cwt for milk...get about 10 jerseys and milk them. Since cow milk market with Jerseys right now is about $25cwt.

    I find it funny that people well say that big commerical dairies aer nasty to go into. I have been in a few that yes, made me wonder how they stayed on market. But, there are alot of them that honestly are cleaner than smaller dairies. One reason is they have more riding on the biz. Its alot of what people want to look at really, I managed a 850 milking herd for 3 years. We never once had a write up on the slip, now the 30 cow dairy down the road. Lets say, there milk was not picked up a few times.

    Ken in MO
     
  18. BlueHeronFarm

    BlueHeronFarm New Member

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    The PMO (Pasteurized Milk Ordinance) is VERY specific about a lot of details on a pasteurizer. I don't know anything about Tricia's, but there is no way we could have built an approved one ourselves. They do cost pretty close to 10,000 - BUT that is a good 6,000 less than they were just a couple years ago when we started looking.

    Yes, 10,000 seems like a lot of money, but you have to decide this is a business if you are going to do it. It absolutely cannot be a hobby or even a side business, IMO. And it is still way cheaper than other businesses to get into. That pasteurizer will pay for itself in less than a year. And we'll still be taking depreciations on it for 7-10.

    We will never be milking more than 25 does. Ever. Small, manageable, profitable. It's a mantra.

    We just got legal in March and have already paid a mortgage note with the dairy. Our first Farmer's Market is Tuesday. I'm still too new at it to be able to tell you for sure it will work the way we planned, but I see only positive signs now. Christian and I are always happy to share what we've learned and our opinions with anyone who is interested. Y'all can call, come visit or whatever. :)

    --Lisa
     
  19. LMonty

    LMonty New Member

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    Lisa, thatsa very generous offer, and I really appreciate it. I'm nowhere near ready yet, but if it still stands in a year or so, I may very well take you up on it! I'd love to see a working cheese plant.
     
  20. Sunny Daze

    Sunny Daze New Member

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    Where do you find the regulations and requirements for each state when it comes to cheese making operations? I have been interesting in looking into this as well...