Do I need special rooms or buildings for my herdshare program?
Of course your animals should have access to clean, dry shelter with minimal drafts in winter. But what we're really talking about here is milking and bottling facilities. As herdshares are largely unregulated in most states, no special milk rooms or milking parlors are necessary in the beginning, but as you grow and find that you enjoy providing raw milk to your members, you may decide to expand your facilities for your convenience.
I would recommend that you have a separate room or even just an overhang out of the rain that you can keep relatively clean. Our first milking 'parlor' was an old livestock trailer sitting next to the goat pen. It had the open stock sides, but was a clean, dry shelter in the rain, was simple and easy to sweep clean. We moved into converted stall in the barn in which
we build a raised floor and laid linoleum over
tar paper, lining 3 milk stands up side-by-side.
We are now graduating up to a Grade A-
compliant milking parlor with a concrete floor
with drain and washable walls, but for our first
four years, we produced clean, long-lasting raw
goat milk by keeping the milk stands bleached
down, the floors swept/mopped, and the milking
supplies under cover or inside the house. Work
with what you have for the first few years, and if
you need an upgrade it, take what you learn from
your first season or two.
Keys to an effective milking 'parlor'
Out of the rain and weather - if you're milking 10-12 months a year, doing so out of the weather will make the job significantly better.
A room or enclosure in a different space from the animal housing - a wall between the two is sufficient, but you want there to be physical separation so that aerosol fecal material doesn't make its way into the milk.
A milking stand or stanchion that can be easily cleaned. Bleach water in a spray bottle is an essential for me. Ours is currently wood, but I spray and wipe it down at the end of each milking session, so that the stands are ready to go for the next time.
A floor surface that can be swept or (preferably) mopped. A clean floor tracks less manure and debris onto the milking stands/stanchions, which are prime potential contamination sites.
A shelf or rack to hold your supplies.
(optional) - a fan in summer to keep the flies at bay, if you're in an open space.
Bottling Room, or your home kitchen
You can DEFINITELY bottle milk and clean your buckets and bottles in your kitchen. I have bottled milk and washed bottles in my kitchen for four years. There are two permanent drain racks on my counter with milk pails and buckets, bottles, lids, and funnels. They take up
a good bit of space, but bringing milk into the house to bottle
was the most sanitary solution that I had for quite a while,
until I could get the proper wash sink, water heater, and drain
racks installed in our new barn.
The keys to maintaining cleanliness is in separation of locations and supplies:
NEVER deal with raw meat near the milk wash racks - even aerosol salmonella from chicken could cause severe sickness and death.
Keep your milk utensil soap put away, so dirty little hands aren't contaminating the pump.
Don't use your milk container brushes for anything but milk containers and utensils.
Set aside a separate cupboard or drawer to store your supplies, milk funnel filters, labels, etc.
Do you have questions about your situation? Contact me and I'll be happy to talk to you about your farm and milking practices.
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.