I touched on this in my last blog, but wanted to make a little bit longer post. The last couple of weeks we’ve had a lull in production; back in March and April we were getting 30+ gallons of milk per day, right now we’re averaging around 18 – 20. I know this has been frustrating for some of our customers, as shelves at markets are not so quickly filled, or those that pick up directly from us can’t always stop by same day like they had become accustomed to. It’s frustrating for me too. I have been seriously stressed lately worrying about disappointing the customers and business partners that we worked so hard to obtain. So what’s going on? A few things…
First, I never expected our demand to sky rocket as it did and continues to. When we started milking cows at home back in October, we were maybe selling 10 – 20 gallons per week. Right now, we average no less than 150 gallons per week, and if the cows were milking more, I can say with confidence that number would probably be over 200. In fact, our highest week was 213 gallons out the door, and that didn’t include any cheese or butter I sold that week. Pretty consistently, I’ve had no milk sitting on our fridge shelves at home. The cows are milked, the milk is jugged and it is literally being sent out to a market or customer somewhere. Business is good, I am in no way complaining, but it was just not something I properly prepared for.
Second, it has been HOT. This affects things in a couple of ways. A, the cows milk less when it’s hot. B, because of the heat and also because of how our show season is, most of our cows are typically dried off during the summer in preparation for calving starting in August/September. So although we have almost 50 head of cattle, most of them aren’t milking at this minute, but once they start calving, we are going to be flooded with milk. We also made sure to stagger the cows a little better this breeding season so we shouldn’t have such a lull in cows milking at any one point again.
We do have 3 milking at a commercial dairy, that people keep saying I should bring home, but they are doing good there, and I don’t want to disrupt their routine. Cows are very much creatures of habit. If you move them, change their feed, etc, it can very easily make them sick or cause them to have a dip in production. Although our business is important to me, making sure the cows are happy and healthy is my absolute priority.
Since we’ve had such a significant reduction in production, I’ve tried to make sure that our markets get something each week. Even if it’s just a few gallons, I really am trying to keep everyone happy, which sometimes feels really impossible.
We’ve been trying to take this slower production time to take steps to make our product safer, better, and more sustainable for our customers. A2 tests were done. This coming week we’ll be sending off the first samples to the lab to test for bacteria counts in our milk to make sure our process is as safe as possible. A couple of months ago, we signed a lease on the 10 acres next door to us so that we now have 20 acres (minus our house) for the cows to use once fences are put up. There’s also the possibility of leasing another 10 acres around us. We’ve installed gutters and rain barrels on our barn, brought in fill dirt so things don’t get as muddy for the cows and had a significant solar panel system put in. Our egg production is finally starting to increase and there’s a possibility that we’ll be adding local honey to our list of offerings soon.
So to conclude this long, early morning rambling, I want to say THANK YOU to those who have been loyal to our product and have made our business more of a success than I could have ever dreamed. Also, PLEASE be patient as our calving season is about to start ramping up and there will likely be more milk, cheese, butter, and cream than I will know what to do with in the coming weeks.
I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend. Be kind to each other, and stay safe.