Selling the Cows

Fifteen years ago next month Holly and I bought our first truck load of Jersey Springer heifers. Since that time we have grown our dairy and moved from a rented dairy (my grandparents) to the dairy we purchased and remodeled here in Cove. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, been through good times and bad. Overall it has been a good ride. We have been joined on our dairy by our six children, made many great friends, not only here locally but around the state and across the county. The experience has helped us grow into the people we have become, and I would not change a minute of it. The last three years for us have been very difficult with feed prices reaching all time highs, diesel prices over $4/gal., and milk prices that just have not been able to keep up. It has become increasingly obvious that we needed to make a change in order to support our family.
So, last Saturday we sold our cows. Not all of the cows, but most of them (all but ten which are currently being milked at a neighboring dairy). We still have all our heifers, which we plan on selling as they get ready to calve. I have been a little bit lost these past few days, I wake up by 5 every morning and wonder what I should do.image

I go out to the dairy but without the cows there to milk there is just not that much work to be done. I feed the few calves we still have and the heifers but that doesn’t take very long. There are a few odds and ends that I need to get finished up, and some manure to get hauled once the fields dry out, but things are pretty quiet right now.
So what now? My passion for agriculture will not allow me to stop farming in some fashion permanently, or even for very long if I can avoid it. I have spent the past week at USU attending a class on cheese making with the intention of bringing home the knowledge I gained and start making artisan cheese from the milk we get from the few cows we still have, and then sell that cheese straight to the public. This will be a new and very different adventure for our family. We have never dealt directly with our customers before, but we look forward to that opportunity. My hope is for my family to be able to more effectively share our story and the things we are passionate about through our interaction with our customers and the marketing of our cheese. At the same time I hope to be better able to preserve the lifestyle my family has come to enjoy by living on the farm. I am sure the learning curve will be quite steep as we learn to make and market cheese ourselves, but we have never been ones to run away from a challenge or a little hard work. There is much to do to remodel the barn and make it suitable for cheese making and possibly some retail sales, so I will be working on that for the next several weeks (this is not something that will happen overnight). Once we start making cheese I am sure it will take some time to perfect our recipes and age the cheese to a point we feel comfortable marketing it. At this point we are not even sure what type of cheese we want to make, I’m sure there will be a variety.

So while I still like to consider myself a dairy farmer, my dairy will begin to take on a very different look and feel as we move forward. We still plan on raising healthy, well cared for jersey cows and calves (just not nearly as many as we have in the past), and a few goats for Kyle. But we hope to be able to find a niche that will allow us to support our six children and provide for their future not just today but for many years to come.

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2 Responses to Selling the Cows

  1. Carter Administration Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz warned farmers to “Go big, or get out.” Federal policies have been designed to eliminate the small producer ever since.

    I was an Ag Business Management major in college 25 years ago, and worked in the printing and publishing industry for most of my professional career. I love farming and I love the land and livestock that populate a farm. In a few months my husband and I are leaving Los Angeles for Kentucky where we plan to build a sustainable small farm.

    A applaud your decision to stay on the farm and I’m encouraging you to look at a model where your raise enough feed to support your smaller herd and sell your value added artisan cheese directly to consumers. I think you will be happier, your cows will be happier, and your family will be happier.

    I’ve enjoyed your blog and I hope you continue your journey to a more rewarding future.

  2. Scott Trimble says:

    You have raised such a good family and I am glad to have watched them grow up. I appreciate being able to be your milk tester and will be looking forward to some of the best cheese to hit the market. I wish you much success in your family’s future.

    Scott Trimble

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