I know this is a much-promised blog post, but it’s been hard to sit down and write it. We absolutely loved our customers, our two cows, and Jason’s goats. We had every intention of continuing to milk them this year. Life in general has so many curveballs, and farmlife seems to amplify the curveball machine.
After we calculated our monthly expenses related directly to dairy/cows, I literally cried. All those mornings leaving my sleeping toddler, missed schooling hours, the random injuries, multiple falls in mud and manure, spilled pails of milk, the cows going into heat dropping production in milk and shorting customers, the sweltering heat and frigid cold, locking up the calf every single night…and this was only when I was milking. Before I took over, Jonathan and the boys were milking daily and had their own sacrifices and bad days. To know after all our efforts, we were making a couple dollars each day? It was absolutely tragic. The worst was remembering the days when my kids would ask if there was any milk and all of it was already designated to regular customers (if you’ve never milked an animal, there can be huge fluctuations depending on heat cycles, storms, hot days, calf drinking more, or a spilled pail). Once we were settled in at the new homestead, we realized that even if we increased the prices to make a profit, it still wouldn’t make up for the sacrifices we would make as a family and farm. Thus, we made the decision to just keep the milk ourselves, fertilize our pastures with excess, and store up supply for the upcoming Anatolian puppy litter.
Jason has done a phenomenal job with his goats, faithfully milking, processing, sanitizing, and giving them daily care. We couldn’t be prouder. But the reality is that he is turning 16 in 4 days. This year holds many obligations for him. Working on driving hours to get his license, enrolling in a community school course, clogging performances/practice/teaching, working here on the farm with Jon, and possibly a part time job once he gets his license. He would also have the same expenses as before, which kept him at about the same profits as us…a couple dollars a day. I would have thought the decision would have been easier for Him than myself, but it wasn’t. He was so conflicted. He truly loved milking and loved his goats. But he eventually realized that in this season of his life, he will not be able to commit to milking daily, let alone 2x day.
So in March, Jason decided to find new homes for Daisy, Fern, and Mongo, and I decided to only milk Magpie for our family’s needs. Suddenly I found myself wondering what in the world we were doing! Going out and milking a goat and processing takes a fraction of the time that milking a cow does. Putting up good natured & tame goat kids is so much more manageable than putting up a calf that doesn’t care to be away from his mama all night. Cleaning the entire milk machine, AND the pail, AND the filtering equipment, vs. a pail and the filtering equipment. While I personally prefer Normande milk, it makes more sense for our family to switch to goat milk.
And so, the decision was made…Jason will trade me Fern for a couple of our ewes/lambs, and Magpie will be devoted to raising a lovely Normande calf. As Fern is due within the month, the kid(s) will stay with mom through the spring and summer, so I have flexibility (it’s SO much easier to leave the kid(s) on the nanny for a day than to hire a farm helper!). Magpie is due in June, so we will make sure her calf gets established nursing, get her milk regulated, and leave him/her on Magpie so I won’t be doing double-duty milking for our family. Due to her production capabilities, keeping both of the nannies wouldn’t be ideal, so his Daisy is currently for sale to the right family/farm.
I am excited, but also sad. This is the right thing for Jason, the right thing for me, the right thing for our family, and the right thing for our farm. When we dried the girls up 4 months ago, we tried our best to find sources of milk to tide our customers over until we produced again, but we had lovely relationships with all of them. It’s very difficult to have to tell everyone, including the crazy long waitlist we had growing for the past 4 months of NEW potential customers, that we won’t be producing anymore. We know some of you may be reading this, and I want to say a HUGE thank you for supporting us and our family last year. You were such a blessing and became friends we cared about and sacrificed for. We hope to find you good local sources of dairy, if you haven’t already found one. Please reach out to us, and we will do our best to help.