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What is a herdshare program?

Herdshare Basics

In a herdshare, your customers purchase a portion of the herd, similar to purchasing stock in a company. If you have 10 goats, and each goat is worth $400, then you have $4,000 in shares that you can sell.  Some states have cow and goat share programs – in this case, members are not allowed to own a share of the herd in total, but rather in a single particular milking animal.

Is there a minimum or maximum size?  NO!  There are herdshare programs with 1 cow or 3 goats, on up to 100 goats or cows.  It is what you make it, and what you can handle!

Share Logistics - board & milk

I never advise that you sell more than 50% of your possible

shares, both for business and logistical reasons. You sell the

shares to customers as a one-time fee.  If they ever

want to stop participating in the program, you refund their

share purchase (minus a small handling fee).

 

Once your share owners (we’ll call them members) buy in,

they also have to pay board fees to maintain, feed, and

milk their share of the herd.  This is the monthly fee that they pay, and in exchange you provide them with your clean, beautiful, and nutritious raw milk. 

 

The typical volumes for herdshares are ½ gallon per week for goat milk, and 1 gallon per week for cow milk.  Often members would like more milk, and in that case, they would need to purchase an additional share as well as pay the additional board each month.


 

Shared Risks and Rewards

A true herdshare program informs the members that

they are responsible for paying board year-round,

and their share quantity each  month corresponds to

abundance in the spring and less supply in the winter. 

That means that if there is excess milk, they have the

right to it, and when the animals are making less milk

or are dry, they continue to pay board and receive

less or no milk.

When tragedy strikes and animals get sick or die,

members also take that risk and most contracts also allow for additional fees to cover extraordinary medical expenses.

 

Some herdshare programs also offer their members first right to purchase any calves or kids offered for sale from the herd. All programs retain ownership of any offspring born on the farm as specified in the contract.

What's all this about a contract? 

Relax...Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund

does all the hard work for you.  I've been a 

member for 4 years since I started my herdshare

program, and their assistance in getting my

program started and 'legal' was ABSOLUTELY

invaluable.

 

Become a member, and they'll help you customize the

contract for your farm and state.

What about my barn, milking parlor, wash room, milking supplies - what do I need?

We've got free articles covering most of your questions on our Resources page, along with links to advertising your milk, purchasing dairy supplies, and more.  Check it out!

So that’s your blitz introduction to a herdshare program.  Interested in learning more about getting your girls to earn their keep and build your customer base? 

 

Download our free guide here, and consider joining Herdshare School, where we walk you through all of the steps to starting a herdshare program, and you’ll join a community of other farmers doing the same.