You know that feeling in your gut, the one that tells you you’re royally screwing something up. I’ve had it for the past 6 months.
I know a large part of it is fear. Investing your savings into an enterprise that you don't have a background in is a scary thing.
My mother always said, “Fear of loss is greater than the hope of gain.”
It’s true. And, in this situation it’s really true. I have wanted to quit SO.MANY.TIMES because of the stress and upheaval this dairy has brought into our lives.
But I haven’t. And now, here we are, just a few steps away from getting licensed. As they say, it’s about to get real.
At the rate I was going I was planning to milk 24 goats. With my pipeline system I can milk 6 goats at a time. That’s 4 rounds through, every morning and every night. That’s at least 4 hours every single day devoted to milking and cleaning. That’s not even taking into account that I need to do something with that milk every other day. That’s a feed bill of $800/month once everyone is in milk.
I want to be very purposeful and very intentional about how I start this dairy. I don’t want to burn out in the first year and be forced to call it quits to save my sanity. I also don’t want to personally finance a dairy with my off farm job. Most importantly, I don’t want to miss my daughter’s childhood because I was so exhausted trying to make a dairy work. Which leads me to my first really really tough decision.
I’m reducing my herd.
The business model for my dairy has never included fluid milk. All of our products are value-added, meaning, we take the milk and we turn it into the next “something”. For me it will be Chevre, Feta, Gouda, Chocolate Milk, or Drinkable Yogurt. I have finally developed a recipe for drinkable yogurt that is absolutely delicious. The problem is it requires so much honey there’s no way I can make a profit on it. So it’s back to the drawing board on that. And that’s fine. I love the idea of perfecting my processes and enhancing my recipes…but I fear with the looming threat of needing to make enough money to feed the dairy herd I would sacrifice that.
That’s also not something I’m willing to compromise on. Because my business model includes value added products I should, TECHNICALLY, be able to make a living wage with a smaller herd.
One of my goals in starting this dream, apart from filling a huge goatey void in a community that I love, and getting to work with the animals who are part of my soul, has always been to create a sustainable model for others who dream of a dairy lifestyle. This is one of the reasons I share, maybe to freely, the struggles that come with starting a creamery with no background in dairy.
When The Farmstead’s Creamery is up and running I hope to share more than struggles—I hope to share successes, and, more importantly, learnings that others can duplicate in their own communities.
And so, yes, I’m admitting failure in that I miscalculated how many goats I would need to open my doors. Part of this was getting swept up in the emotions of our first original big win, when we bought out a retiring creamery and their herd of dairy goats. Part of it was I just love animals and heck, who doesn’t want more goats? Goats in milk are hard to find and so, when presented with such an easy purchase, we jumped on it.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have bought so many goats. I grossly miscalculated how long it would take us to build a licensed creamery. I have fed these goats for almost an entire year…oy…my heart hurts.
Which brings me to my next point. If you are interested in dairy girls, about to freshen, send me a text, call, or shoot me an e-mail: (360) 280-6730 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They are second fresheners and are Alpines or Alpine/Nubians. I have one Saanen/Ober who will also be a second freshener. They are proven dairy girls from dairy lines. (Say dairy one more time). I am selling these girls for $200 each (which is what I paid for them last year). As a bonus, I’m selling them bred…you get the babies!
My loss (and stupidity) is your gain. And while it’s been beyond hard to think about who I will keep and who I will sell, ever since we made this decision a week ago, I’ve been less plagued with the fear that I have turned our family into a sinking ship and more excited about the success that I will continue to work my ass off for.
And, as a bonus, I won't miss my daughter growing up while doing it.
ps: If you are a Kickstarter backer and haven't yet named your dairy goat, please don't worry. I am still planning to keep kids. These eventual girls will become the goats that my dairy grows into!