Animals,  Farms,  Real Food

The Cost of Producing Raw Milk

I recently asked y’all Β on Facebook how much you spend on raw milk. The prices ranged from $3 per gallon up to $20. The break down is like this:

  • 43% pay $7 or less per gallon
  • 45% pay between $8 and $13 per gallon
  • 12% pay over $14 per gallon

We have 2 dairy cows, but only one is in milk right now. Our other cow just got “serviced” last month and we hope that she is pregnant! I am going to break down our costs for you, to show you how much we spent in the month of May (2013) on our dairy cows, and how much we made in milk profits.

  • $36.54 per month Β Alfalfa
  • $170 per month Rolled Barley
  • $9 per month Minerals
  • .84 per monthΒ Food Grade Bleach for cleaning the pump lines
  • $2.63 per month Diatomaceous Earth for deworming our cows
  • $74.20 per month Teat Dip for sterilizing the cow’s teats
  • $5.83 per month Pump Oil
  • $35 per month Testing
  • $40.00 per month Vet Services
  • $31.25 per month Hoof Trimming (the cost is 3x this but we only do it every 3 months)
  • $107.33 per month glass 1/2 gallon jars (our customers pay for these jars, but it is an initial expense, subtracted from the total profit)
  • $10.45 per month Probiotic

Total monthly expenses: $523.07


And of course there were start-up costs, like buying fencing, stall equipment, the pump, the cows, etc. This is what we spent:

  • $3,000 milking cow, pump & misc. equipment
  • $600 gates for stalls and fencing materials
  • $34.97 hoses
  • $255.40 stall mats
  • $308.28 stanchion supplies
  • $163.84 wagon (for moving the 5 gal pail of chilled milk into the house)
  • $500 second cow (2 years old, not with calf, never been milked)

Total start up costs: $4,862.49

Start-up costs per month (total divided by 24 months): $202.60


And there are the occasional expenses, which we divide out over the year:

  • $35 AI services
  • $4.93 goldfish for the cow’s water troff, to eat up the baby mosquitos we saw in there πŸ™‚
  • $41.01 paper towels (we use a lot of these for cleanup)
  • $30 viles for testing

Total occasional expenses: $110.94

Occasional expenses per month (total divided by 12 months): $9.24


And the labor…My husband does all of the milking. Every morning he spends around 30 minutes outside milking and 30 minutes sterilizing all of the equipment. He does this again in the evening. So 2 hours per day milking.Β Plus the labor of contacting customers, sending e-mail reminders to customers about payments, etc. That’s probably 1 hour per week. So, 66 hours per month spent on the dairy business.


Let’s see what our profit was. πŸ™‚

We sell our milk for $10 per gallon.

In the month of May, we made $1,502 on milk.

$1,502 profit

-$523.07 monthly expenses

-$202.60 start up costs

-$9.24 occasional expenses

Total profit = $767.09

Divided by 66 hours, that is $11.62 per hour…which isn’t a very amazing wage. πŸ˜‰


When we get our second cow milking, our profits will increase (ideally they will double), but our expenses will also increase a bit. Here are my projections:

$3004 profit per month

-$886.34 monthly expenses (increased expenses due to second cow eating grain, using teat dip, etc.)

-$202.60 start up costs

-$9.24 occasional expenses

Total profit = $1,905.82

With a second cow, the milking labor will increase by about 30 minutes per day. And the amount of time working with customers will increase by 1 hour per week. So, approximately 85 hours worked per month for 2 dairy cows.

If we sell our milk for $10 per gallon (as estimated above), with 2 milking cows, my husband’s wage per hour will be $12.89. And that, folks, is the cap in Oregon. That’s all we can make on raw milk, unless we increase the cost of our milk per gallon. By law, we can only have 2 milking cows and 1 dried up.

If we wanted to sell our milk for $3 per gallon, like the grocery store, we would be under water by $198 per month!

If we wanted to sell our milk for $5 per gallon, we would be making $4.72 per hour.

And this does not include the cost of liability insurance…which we have not been able to find for our farm, only because weΒ sell raw milk. (We got liability insurance for going to farmer’s market, but it does not cover our farm and raw milk).

We’ve taken raw milk training at Champoeg Creamery, and Charlotte charges $16 per gallon for her milk and has a waiting list. I think that is a more realistic amount to charge. Tim Wightman, raw milk specialist, says that the national average for raw milk should be $30 per gallon.


What do you pay for raw milk? Are you willing to pay more after reading this?

Do you sell raw milk? If so, how much do you charge? How much do you think your expenses are per month?


photo credit




  • Tammy Dawson

    There is a raw milk dairy NW of Houston. Before we moved last year, it was $10 for raw cow milk and $14 for raw goat milk. We only drink raw goat milk because of our allergies. It was heavenly to have milk again. In the grocery store, I pay $6.30 for a half gallon of pasteurized goat milk; it tastes like blah and it doesn’t have all the good bacteria.

    Thanks for the cost breakdown.

  • Jocelyn

    Thanks for the breakdown. πŸ™‚ I think our farmer is doing OK, but his operation here in ATL is quite a bit larger than yours. They also have pastured chickens for eggs and have expanded to include pastured beef, pork, and lamb (in the fall). We pay $7.50 per gallon for milk. I feel pretty fortunate for that, having seen the price some others pay. Our farmer also does deliveries to a different city in the ATL area each day of the week. At our drop-off he parks in a church parking lot and now has a mobile store you can just walk up into. We appreciate all farmers (big and small) who work hard to provide real food to communities everywhere. I know you don’t get compensated well for the work you put in, but you are undoubtedly appreciated!

    • Kim

      We have 1 cow not bred yet two milking goats and one more to be bred thus next year.
      I believe if we were to sell it is from the farm only in Arkansas. We drink it and I do yogurt soft cheeses and all for family. I haven’t given my grand babies raw milk yet. I have heard people selling goats milk for 8.00 to 10.00 a gallon and know a guy selling raw cows milk for 4.00 a gallon just so he isn’t tossing it out to all the animals. We have had raw goats milk for 5 years or more now. I love it and am all for raw milk.

    • Brenda

      Jocelyn, awesome! We also raise chickens for eggs, broilers for meat, turkeys, ducks, geese, pork and beef. We are not legally allowed to deliver our milk, in Oregon. All milk has to be sold on our farm. Our farm is about a 30 min drive from the freeway, so it would be NICE if we could deliver it! πŸ™‚ Thanks for appreciating farmers!

  • Terri

    Thank you for the breakdown, but coming from a family of ranchers and farmers we know we don’t get paid an hourly rate. That’s what employees get, and as farmers you aren’t an employee, Farmers and ranchers are business owners, and as a business owner, there are taxable deductions that you get to make for your business that employees do not get to take. So it comes to a profit and loss statement and that being said, you will need to reference your gross income vs the deductions of your business expenses for an annual profit from your business to actually determine what you make from selling your milk. Also keeping in mind that you will pay taxes on the difference between your income less your deductions as business owners whereas employees pay taxes on taxable income. So I greatly appreciate your homesteading but breaking down costs for an hourly rate isn’t really that simple. If farmers and ranchers wanted a decent hourly rate, they wouldn’t run a farm or a ranch. Which is why I so greatly appreciate the farmers and ranchers, they do it for reasons other than the money and I wish there were more of them and less corporate farms. Thank you for what you do, the light you shine on it and may more people make their little corner of the world a homestead.

    • Dthoris

      I realize that full on ranchers and farmers think in terms of PNL, but to make it accessible to those who aren’t businessmen, you need to speak in terms of wages.

    • Jerica

      I believe that looking at it in terms of hourly wages IS a perfectly valid way of looking at it. Yes, business owners get deductions that regular employees do not, but business owners also pay ALL of their own medicare/social security and don’t get employer matching, paid vacations, etc. For a simple way of analyzing WHY farmers charge what they charge, this is the best way to do it. Just because something is “deductible” doesn’t mean the farmer doesn’t pay for it. It only reduces their potential tax liability. In other words, if a farmer grossed 50K in a year and had 50K worth of deductible expenses, he wouldn’t pay taxes on income, but HE DIDN’T HAVE NET INCOME to begin with. I think this kind of income/expense analysis in terms of return for your labor is essential to being a successful farmer and business owner.

    • Clifford Joe Cordell

      Have you ever given any thought to the reasons why agriculturalist make so little in the terms of profits? Perhaps the socialization of American agriculture is our problem? Perhaps the wholesale embracing of socialized agriculture by most Americans, especially our farmers and ranchers, is the crux of the matter.

  • Consumer

    I think $30/Gallon is absolutely a slap in the face to the consumer. I would not be able to pay that, I wouldn’t be able to afford it. I appreciate that there are farmer’s/ranchers who are able & willing & see the nutritional benefit to raw milk, but, it must be affordable for all too. You have 2 cows, I think that alot of farms/ranches have alot more. I know the farmer’s around here do have more than 2 cows, & they generally offer more products than just milk (meat & meat products, eggs, cheese, yogurt etc). I’m not sure what you mean about “that, folks is the cap in Oregon”? That’s all the cows you are allowed? That’s the maximum you can charge? Or earn per hour? I totally believe in fair pay etc, but, then there’s gouging the consumer.

    that, folks, is the cap in Oregon
    that, folks, is the cap in Oregon
    that, folks, is the cap in Oregon
    that, folks, is the cap in Oregon

    • Brenda

      Hi Consumer,
      I think $30 per gallon is a lot, too, but there is a real cost to producing food that most consumers don’t even realize. All of the chicken, pork and turkey at the grocery store is fed government subsidized soy and corn–not healthy or even natural feeds for these animals–and yet very, very cheap. So the consumer has no clue what the real cost of meat is. The milk is the same way. We are capped at having 2 producing cows in Oregon. That’s all we can have, unless we pasteurize and become a commercial dairy operation. There are crazy laws that real-food-farmers have to deal with, and most consumers aren’t even aware how hard it is to produce and sell really good food. We do sell chicken and pork and turkey and duck and goose and beef. But this is part of what our farm offers, and it takes more than 2 hours every day out of our day, so it needs to make an income. Most farmers who raise food “right” are having to take on part time or even full time jobs and make farming a second priority. I think that is just *wrong* and so sad, and so I am trying to be a voice for those farmers. The fact of the matter is, a $3 gallon of milk isn’t sustainable for anyone. If consumers are going to complain about growth hormones, and feedlot operations, and icky food being fed to cows (as they should), they should also realize that $3 per gallon will put any farmer–no matter how big his operation is–in the hole, financially. Government subsidized soy and corn have ruined the consumer’s understanding of food costs. People who shop in grocery stores regularly do not have a realistic picture of how much food *actually* costs to raise, and unfortunately, farmers who are doing it right take a lot of flack for trying to make an income that’s even near or above the poverty level. Our bacon costs $11 per pound, and people think that is a lot–but my husband made $1 for every day he raised those pigs–that’s it. If he was making a decent wage raising hogs, nobody would buy our bacon. Either consumers decided that they’re going to pay real prices for real food, or we will all be stuck with the factory-farm model and a country that goes deeper in debt because of how much we “pretend” food costs.

      • Nothing better than natural

        I pay $3 a gallon from the Amish. I know they don’t have near the monthly costs. No vets for sure because everything can be done by the farmer. I also have a dairy cow who can’t be milked right now but when she can, I will be selling milk but for $3 a gallon – $1 less than pasteurized in stores- I don’t have a farm to get rich but instead to know exactly what my children are eating. I think the best thing I can do is make something that is so healthy definitely affordable for those who need it the most. I also raise hogs and I can sell 2 and feed a 3rd for free for the family off profit and still make a little. Mine cost less than $2 a pound. I also sell eggs for $2 a doz – I make money on that. There are a lot of natural and much cheaper ways to raise animals without chemicals, pesticides and hormones. I break everything down like you do but I honestly never thought about our wages. The benefits my family and I get out of running a farm surely outweigh anything else. I do want to thank you for giving some insight on how other states and farmers do it.

        • Shawna B

          We are in California and our milk costs us more than $3/gallon still in the cow. If we charged $3/gallon, we would be subsidizing our community’s milk.

        • Brenda

          Nothing Better than Natural, are the Amish farmers doing bacteria cultures themselves, too? We use our vet for this to make sure that our milk is always safe for the customer. One tweak–in the amount of alfalfa–the amount of probiotic–the amount of grain–the type of grass in the pasture–the cleaner we use on the equipment–ONE tweak can make the bacteria count go from 5 to 3,000, or vice versa. It’s really a science. I think that not testing our milk would be irresponsible.
          I don’t have a farm to get rich either, but we do want to make a living at this (we raise dairy cows, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, ducks, geese and a big garden). We don’t use any chemicals, pesticides or hormones. We try to make our farm-fresh products as cheap as we can (but we also avoid soy, corn or GMO’s on our farm–which takes work, and money). We want to provide food at a reasonable price but also be able to pay our expenses. If we sold our milk for less than $5 per gallon we might as well give it to our animals, because our animals’ feed costs more than that. If we sold our eggs for $2 or even $3 per dozen we would not be making any profit on eggs at all (considering the cost of buying chicks every year, the cost of feeding those chicks who aren’t laying, the cost of feeding our layers, etc.). Our hogs eat 1/2 ton of feed before they are done, and our feed is .45/lb. Then there’s the kill fee $50 per animal, and the cut & wrap fee, and of course, labor, and we bought the weaner pigs for $125 each. If we sold our pork for less than $2 per lb, we’d be paying people to buy our pork. We have to sell it for at least $3.15/lb to break even, and if we want a wage for all of our work, we have to charge more than that….Maybe it’s just the difference in where we live & the cost of feed, etc. If you know of methods to make pork, egg and milk production cheaper (besides feeding the animals corn and soy), please let me know! πŸ™‚ Thank you for your comment!

      • Kathryn

        I pay $10 a gallon here in Phoenix. I earn (when I am working) $12 an hour. If the true price were $30 a gallon, I could not afford it. I buy my veggies & eggs from local farmers, paying as much as $5.50 a dozen for the eggs. We eat well, but mostly veggies, as we cannot afford much in the way of healthy meat. The laborer is worthy of his hire, but if the hire is too much, I can’t pay.

      • Consumer

        I hear what you’re saying. I am self-employed too in a cottage industry, but, I try to price my products fairly so they are affordable to as many people as possible. I know there are alot of people who aren’t able to afford my products unless they sacrifice somewhere else in their budget. I’m not rich either, I have to pick & choose what I’m going to get organically etc & what I just have to compromise on. I’m not saying you don’t try to keep your product affordable, I think you obviously do. I think Tim Wightman has got his head stuck in the sand if he thinks he’s being reasonable to the farmer or the consumer. Because, if you make a product unreachable to the average joe, the average joe simply moves on. I think we would all be alot better off if we reverted to the sort of pricing we had years ago. By that I mean, most people didn’t go out & buy themselves a 16 oz steak per person for dinner, maybe the 16 oz steak went 3 or 4 ways. I would much rather have to pay a little higher price for a better quality of food. The meat, the veg, etc was a “cleaner” product back then too. I don’t think alot of people in this day & age can afford or want to pay these kinds of prices. Plus, often times, we are driving many miles to support our local farmers, I drive past several big box grocery stores to get to my raw milk, veg, eggs etc. And sometimes I wish I didn’t have to.

    • Rachel Whetzel

      The author means that in Oregon, you can’t have more than 2 milking cows without a license to sell milk. The law states 2 lactating cows, 9 goats and 9 sheep. Any more, and licensing is required.

    • Mark

      You can only gouge a consumer if their are no other sources to get the product, price is fair if the consumer agrees to pay it. Simple as that. Your ? was answered in the article. Whats with the 4 time repeat “that, folks, is the cap in Oregon”. Keep buying pasteurized, antibiotic ridden, hormone poisoned milk and see how much your own health suffers, and thus your own medical costs go up! The slap in the face to the consumer comes from the FDA approving the crap foods they do!

      • Lloyd E Bradow

        Thank-you! That answer is perfect. You can only be “gouged” if there are no other alternatives. The price is expensive but if you don’t like the price then buy a small farm, buy a cow, and milk it twice per day. Then sell that milk for less than it costs for the grain, the taxes, the vet bills and the time involved. $30 per gallon is a bargain!

  • Podchef

    I’ve worked on raw milk dairies. Been an advocate for raw milk for 22 years. I currently milk 2 cows, but have 4. We don’t sell much milk, but put it through pigs & poultry. I think your numbers are fine, but if you expected to get an hourly wage from farming you picked the wrong job. You haven’t even addressed the time it takes for haying, or earning hay money. Moving cattle around. Cleaning the barn and fertilizing the pastures. You haven’t taken into account the damage cows can do to the barn, the fences, the fields. You haven’t factored in sickness. The profit from calves or meat. And a whole lot more. Farming is a totality. A life choice. A passion. Cows & Raw milk are part of the totality, not an isolated thing. Thinking in terms of an hourly wage reduces farming to an industrial model it can never mesh into. Milking cows is peace. Exercise. Therapy. Walking pasture is more exercise and fresh air. Please think again when you do your costing. If raw milk is to survive and become the norm again, then it must be affordable for everyone. And while farmers deserve a living wage or better, gouging and profiteering from boutique items won’t win over the public anytime soon.

    • Charlotte Smith

      Given that the raw milk laws vary from state to state, what may seem like gouging in one state is just because the costs of production are so high.

      Farmers don’t go out of business here because they charge too much for raw milk. On the contrary, they go out of business regularly because the costs outweigh any income.

    • SH

      “If raw milk is to survive and become the norm again, then it must be affordable for everyone. And while farmers deserve a living wage or better, gouging and profiteering from boutique items won’t win over the public anytime soon.”

      • Brenda

        I’m just not sure how you think making $11 per hour is “gouging and profiteering boutique items”? That is the point I’ve been trying to convey in this post. May I ask how much you make per hour & what kind of work you do?

      • The Logical Prepper

        It ain’t gouging. Nobody is forced to buy. The milk is worth what others are willing to pay. Profit is not evil. Without a profit, the farm would die. There would be no cushion for unexpected expenses. Sheesh! Maybe you are right, a slight loss might be more noble than a slight profit. Golly.

      • sabi

        We are just not used to paying real costs for what the value of our food is, because of all the subsidies, cheap food is an oxymoron.

    • Lisa C

      You know, it’s totally okay for someone to enjoy their job AND make a decent living. I pay $16 a gallon for raw milk, and even though it’s the most expensive grocery I buy, I’m okay with that. I know I am supporting a farmer and his family and paying the real cost of my milk (not to mention getting the best quality milk).

      Raw milk will survive because people want it. But it will only ever become the norm if farmers are allowed to making a living off of it, not the other way around. As this post demonstrates, tight regulations (only allowing 2 lactating cows on a farm) make it impossible for the farmer to sell their milk at a lower price. I don’t know where you live, but in Oregon $10/hour is barely enough for one person to get by, and they have a family to support.

      • Lloyd E Bradow

        Great comment. The fact is that most cow owners are not looking for a profit. They just want to be compensated for part of their work. Even at $16 per gallon there is no profit. The jars cost a small fortune. The feed is expensive, the vet is expensive. The work is not easy. The land is expensive and the alternative businesses pay much more. I would like to hire the complainers to a cost based profit sharing job and then see how they much they charge for a gallon of milk. The people who complain about raw milk prices are the same people who have never grown a garden and complain about the farmers market prices. They are clueless in actual costs.

    • jojo

      who says what is affordable? the dairy council? who also subsidizes the entire industry to make it consistent across the board? The real and true cost of milk is what you read above, and I think she is still under cutting herself. The delusion is that its ‘not’ affordable because its not $2.89/gallon…. sadly, this is ingrained in the populations thinking. But, its quite ok to spend $400 on a phone. $200/month for the sports package on the tv (which is free get thee an antenae). $200/month for air conditioning. or $2 for a bottle of packaged water….And so on…..

      • The Logical Prepper

        Actually, the government provides the subsidies through the taxpayer. While the taxpayer pays $2.89 a gallon at the store, the true cost per gallon to the taxpayer is hidden through the tax code. If the diary council provides subsidies, where does it get the money? It does not. Subsidies are moneys confiscated from tax payers and redistributed to support the farmer.

  • Charlotte Smith

    Great article raising awareness. Yes, in Oregon, you don’t do this for the money, huh? Given our limits on how many cows we can have our milk should be priced at $30/gallon. There is no economy of scale with such a small herd and it’s very expensive to produce raw milk.

    Since people sell it so cheap we see lots of families buy a cow or two, milk for a year or three, then go out of business leaving many families without a supply of raw milk. If they had charged a sustainable price they would still be in business.

    In order to do this lots of consumer education needs to happen – this post is helping do just that!!

    Long Live Raw Milk!! And this will only happen if consumers step up and take care of their farmers and pay a fair price which we are teaching them what this is πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous

    I love how people think farmers, teacher and other people who do important, necessary work for society should just “do it for the love” and not for money. Would you ask a doctor or lawyer or computer programmer or a great winery to lower their prices, and just do it for the love? Would you forgo a salary at your job or business and just do it for the love?

    Why should a doctor make $200 an hour, while the farmer goes out of business, unable to make ends meet? Arguably the farmer’s job is much more important, since the quality of her food will most likely keep you from needing the doctor in the first place!

    • Brenda

      @smallfootprintmama:disqus, for sure! My husband used to work in an office doing software testing and didn’t feel like what he did made much of a difference in the world…but he got paid a whole lot more than he does farming. People don’t get the real cost of food production & they just want to keep their income for themselves.

    • Jerica

      Hear, hear! I’d say you need your farmer more than you need your doctor! Why not pay them for keeping you well?

      • Anonymous

        Farmers don’t keep me well, they keep me fed, and I appreciate it. However, purveying raw milk can be dangerous. I’ll keep drinking my pasteurized milk at two bucks a gallon. Much safer that way.

    • SH

      So true. But obviously you don’t know many wine makers. I live in wine country- there are well off winemakers to be sure, but the vast majority are poor and do it for the love of it and are hanging on by a thread. They are very much like farmers in that they can be crushed if their ‘crops’ fail due to weather, pests, etc. Even more so since they sort of have all their eggs in one basket – they only grow grapes.

    • Kelli AndTony Etienne

      “Why should a doctor make $200 an hour, while the farmer goes out of business, unable to make ends meet?”

      Case in point…. a doctor SHOULD NOT make $200 an hour. ’nuff said.

      • Anonymous

        Perhaps not, but there is no reason that both the doctor and the farmer shouldn’t make an equally decent wage that allows both of them to support their families and pay back their loans.

          • The Logical Prepper

            A farmer generally is self employed. He runs a business. If the business profits, he makes X number of dollars. He is not guaranteed anything. Just like any other business owner.

      • Stephanie Hairston

        I farm and also work full time in the healthcare industry. I agree farmers should be able to sell their products for PROFIT and “just for love”. I wish most people would go and tour a few farms and see the hard work and time put in to each farm. It may change many minds! However, as absurd as 200/hr seems. Most doctors have earned every penny. Most people (again) for know the amount of time a physician spends each week in the hospital setting. A surgeon, for example, usually spends about 16 years in school. 16! Then, not only are the required to perform surgeries throughout the week. They round the floors to see patients, and see patients in the office. All while doing surgery throughout the day. THEN! They are basically on call 24/7, and could be called at any point throughout the day, night, holiday or weekend. Farmers work 16-18 hour days (like me, I work 8-10hrs a day at my full time job and come home to work 8-10more) and most doctors put in 16+ hour days. Just another perspective.

        • Dillon

          Thank you for this comment. I am a farmer and my husband is a doctor. We respect each other’s professions. He has 4 years of undergrad, 2 years of masters, and 4 years of medical school loans to pay off – then he made far less than minimum wage for his hours worked while in a 3 year residency program where he could be forced to work two 36 hour shifts with less than 10 hours in between for commute and sleep. Now that he’s a full doctor he does NOT make $200/hour, but more like $85/hour (which I acknowledge is a very high wage compared to most, but is less than 1/2 what many people think – heck, it’s less than we pay our auto mechanic). He works mostly 16 hour night shifts in the ICU with occasional random day shifts thrown in (so he has to adjust his sleep schedule for 1 or 2 shifts then adjust back) and works 3 out of 4 weekends a month. He does not get sick days. He spends a lot of his own time keeping up his vast and pretty amazing knowledge base and skill-set.

          He loves his patients and cares deeply for them and their families. We’re very luck to have his income, but I do not think he is overpaid. He literally saves people’s lives everyday, many of whom are not suffering from diet related illnesses but severe injuries and accidents. I do agree that farmer’s are underpaid but that won’t change by paying doctors less…that will change when people learn to value real food for it’s actual cost and not it’s subsidized, big-box, alternative.

          • The Logical Prepper

            Exactly! Thanks to both of you, and anyone else that works for a living no matter what the field!

          • Nicole Tracy

            I agree… no one is factoring in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in education, the more than a decade of grueling work before you bring home a paycheck…( I am not in the medical field at all, nor is anyone in my family)

      • The Logical Prepper

        Why not? He stayed in school until he was about 30 years old, he graduated with hundreds of thousands of dollars in school debt, he pays tens of thousands of dollars EACH MONTH for malpractice insurance, he builds or leases an office, he employees several people and provides benefits to them, he fixes what you cannot fix yourself through his vast knowledge, etc. Come on. Think things through. Farmers are great, but they have not the skill of a surgeon. Just stop it.

      • Crystal Tew Clark

        It’s easy to say that until you need a surgeon to save your life. Health care is just broken here… If it wasn’t for outrageous schooling costs, and insane malpractice insurance, their salaries wouldn’t be nearly as high. Anyway, hospital administrators make 3-4 times more than doctors a year and don’t even need malpractice insurance. It’s comparing apples to oranges. Yes, farmers, especially those using sustainable techniques should be paid well, but that doesn’t discount the fact that health care workers provide life saving treatment each and every day. I know some will argue that raw milk, organic produce, etc etc etc is life saving, but I’m talking about acute situations, where a person needs a doctor to save their life.

    • T Foster

      {I love how people think farmers, teacher and other people who do important, necessary work for society should just “do it for the love” and not for money.}

      People may come to that conclusion simply because teachers and farmers usually state that they do it for the love of doing it and not so much about the money. If they don’t want people thinking that they do it because they love it then they shouldn’t say it to begin with. ???

      • Anonymous

        So your saying that people who love their jobs shouldn’t get paid? That poverty and working almost for free is the “price” of loving your work? That’s just crazytown!

        • T Foster

          Actually what I’m saying is that if you don’t want people thinking you do it because you love it then you shouldn’t say you do it because you love it. Some people actually DO do things that they love for the love of it and make a living on something else. You can charge whatever you want to charge but stop harassing those who look for a better deal. A real free market system not only keeps prices from getting too high but it also keeps prices from going to low, it protects both producer AND consumer. Too bad we don’t have that anymore in this country. One poster made a very good point. If you are running a farm the milk cow is only a portion of it. Trying to compare it to an industrialized model just doesn’t work. Although……..even stores and other businesses take losses on one product or service while marking up others that can handle the higher profit margin and it all evens out as a whole. If your area can handle $16 a gallon milk and there are enough customers to buy it then have at it. Personally, with only $40 a week to spend for a family of 4 it won’t be us. I’m sure we’ll survive without milk somehow.

    • Ashley C

      Commenting on an old post but I was thinking of this too and I think the big issue is that store food/corporate Ag is subsidized thus making it seem cheap to do. And then insurance often covers the cost of healthcare thus making people underestimate the costs again. Since people don’t usually shell out that $200/hour out of pocket they don’t notice the staggering pay differences. If all people had to pay that as they do to a local farmer, I think they’d realize which is cheaper!

    • Anonymous

      Lawyers often do pro bono (free) work and. Doctors often absorb costs for patients and go unpaid as peopel screw them. The cost of education of either profession is FAR more than that of a farmer – even though we have costs of learning etc. you can’t compare apples to oranges. If you want to make money spend the money to get educated to be a doctor – if you want to provide for society and work on the farm do it. But stop comparing apples to oranges. Yes food production costs a lot, But so does maintaining an office and business. Anything you sell is going to be at the price the market can bear – whether you sell whipped cream or lamborghinis. I am not arguing here that there isn’t a lot of greed or that some overcharge for their legal advice. By the way NOONE in my family is doctor or lawyer and we have backyard farm (for our own use).

      • Dewayne Curry

        Doctors salaries are not an example of the free market. The AMA (doctors) controls exactly how many health care professionals there are. They keep the supply tight to keep salaries high. Like all big monopolistic businesses their only concern is profit.

  • lmaciasl2

    I live in Oregon and have been purchasing raw milk for 3 years; I pay $5 for half-gallon jars. I live close enough to Washington, that I could easily drive over the river and get raw milk @ the co-op for about $10 per gallon (Dungeness Valley delivers throughout the state). I like my farmer, and I plan to continue to go to her. However, if the prices went up by much, it would make me rethink the 40 mile-round trip drive I take on a weekly basis. The expense is not just in the price of the milk, but the time and gas to go and get it. I appreciate the hard work and time that it takes to run a farm, and I am willing to pay more for quality food. I also have to balance my budget and live within my means. If prices were to go up to $30 per gallon, I would certainly be going over the river instead of to the farm.

  • Joe

    if your interested I would be willing to share where I get some of my supplies, I have found some good prices on quality products.

  • Cammie Bray

    I would also like to clarify that hershares are perfectly legal in Oregon, it has been publicly stated by the ODA. So, with a herdshare set-up you can have more than two cows, your shareholders own the cows and pay you to take care of them.

    • Brenda

      Cammie, thanks for commenting! How awesome to meet another raw-milk farmer in Oregon! Do you know where we can read more about this statement from the ODA? I would love to learn more! Thank you! πŸ™‚

      • Cammie Bray

        This is a quote from an article written after the Foundation Farm outbreak last year.

        “Foundation Farm has four cows, three that are lactating. But the farm is not breaking the law because herd-sharing programs are not regulated, said Bruce Pokarney, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

        “There is no sale going on technically,” he said. “The people who have shares of the herd own the cows. That milk is their milk. It’s as if they are living on the farm.” ”

  • woodspryte farm

    We also have a herd share, we are located in mi. We milk 5 cows a day. Spend 1 hr milking, 2 hrs cleaning, sterilizing and bottling milk. Another 30 mins hauling hay.
    We pay $3.50/bale of hay and feed 5 per day. Grain is our recipe mixed, with goodies added. That is $185/week. Our income is close to$2000/month. As we are less per gallon by $2.00.
    When hay went up we worked for Under $1/hr for several months. Its a labor of love.
    I trend to get angry when people ask if we can come down on prices or say we are to expensive. Farming, milking espically, you are married to the farm. Meaning no vacations, no holidays, no sick days. 365 days a year, sun, snow, rain, sick and battered we drag our selves to the barns every day. The girls make it worth it, most of the time, but they too tire at times.
    Think of your local farm, mill producer next time your on vacation with your tires in the sand.. He/she is still milking cows.

  • jojo

    to add to this increase in income add product. cheese. soap. kefir etc. that is where you will see a bit of a jump in increase though effort increases too. You don’t do this for a profit. πŸ™‚ You do it to make a decent living loving your passion. I think i need to break it down too and see what an urban farm does. i laughed when i saw your $47/month for alfalfa… i pay $34-40 just for a bale of alfalfa. ….

    • Brenda

      Jojo, thanks for the comment. We can’t legally sell cheese or kefir because we do not have a commercial kitchen (and haven’t paid to jump through that hoop yet). If I did make cheese to sell, I’d want to make more $ than selling a straight gallon of milk, for my time, labor and cheese making equipment/expenses. I doubt people would pay more than $10/lb for raw cheese (1 gallon of milk makes about 1 lb of cheese). So it’s not really a value-added product for me, unfortunately. I can make more selling straight milk.
      We’re not doing this to get rich, of course, but we do need to make a living at this job. We’re not going to just do it out of love, and go deeper in debt or not be able to pay our expenses. I just wanted to break it down so that people can see that.
      Wow, your alfalfa costs a lot! πŸ™‚ Different areas have different costs for things–I think that’s what people are getting caught up on in this post, too. Our expenses may be higher than someone else’s–but that doesn’t make them wrong. They just are what they are–for our area. πŸ™‚

  • Dana

    Great article, really goes to show how little farmers make and what a great service they provide. Many people don’t take this into consideration when buying food.

  • Mark C.

    Excellent article, Brenda! Along with cutting wheat flour & processed foods out of my diet , I also recently stopped drinking milk altogether in an effort to control my Type 2 Diabetes, but prior to that I had to purchase commercial dairy milk at our supermarket due to my low income ($2046/month). I grew up on a row-crop farm in Iowa in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. There was ten of us in the family, and having our own milk cow was a financial necessity. We also raised a few hogs, cattle, and chickens. We sold off a certain number to cover our production costs, which basically allowed us to keep the rest for our family’s personal meat supply. We also raised two HUGE gardens to supply our vegetable needs. It was a lot of work, but those were the best, and healthiest, years of my life. But now, I cannot afford to purchase organic meats and vegetables, I am only able to afford commercially-produced products. I am a firm believer that our priorities in this country are upside down, resulting in our population being used as production units, and thus our agricultural system too. I don’t know for sure how all this happened, but I do know that it shouldn’t be so. Everything is based on the “Almighty Dollar”. We would be so much better off in ALL ways if we could return to the way things were before all this happened. Anyway, I know that you have to charge what you do for your raw milk, and I don’t hold that against you at all. I just wish things were such so that all Americans could afford to drink healthy, raw milk, and eat healthy foods altogether. But, sadly, the majority of us cannot. And, you are so right about the “artificial” prices of our commercially-produced food supply. But, I don’t know what the answer to it all is. Do you? Does anyone? God Bless You, Brenda. πŸ™‚

    • Brenda

      Thanks for the comment, Mark C! I know, this is a big problem! The people who want to buy it can’t…and the people who want to produce it for cheap can’t. It’s such a hard place to be in….I don’t have answers…yet! But I think these are really good discussions to have! Thank you! πŸ™‚

  • JD-730

    We have a small goat dairy out here in NYS. I have for years worked with dairy farms in providing A.I. service for cows, (16 years) and also 7 years as a dairy sanitation expert as it relates to milk production. The one cost I see that is way out of wack is the cost of the teat dip. $74.00 per month for 2 cows? As I mentioned earlier, we milk a small dairy (20) of goats and run a small cheese plant. That would be the equivilant of teat dipping 10 cows. We use top of the line dips, and we don’t spend anywhere’s near $74.00 per month. Why is this figure so high? Also, I didn’t see a figure for cleaning products for your milking system. Am I to assume that you only sanitize your milking equipment, and don’t use cleaning products to remove the residual milk fats and proteins left on the equipment from the milking process?

    • Brenda

      JD-730, that is the amount that we spent on teat dip last month. We dip before and after milking, per the instructions of our vet. When we started doing this, our bacteria count went WAY down. Unfortunately, we don’t get any discounts on supplies like this because we don’t have a very big production. We don’t (yet) have “connections” where we can get these things cheaper through the right people. We just buy what’s available to us, and that’s how much it costs. If you know of a source where we can get it cheaper (in Oregon), please share! πŸ™‚ (We have also been told that buying the big drums of teat dip is not good for a small dairy because the potency of the teat dip is volatile and every time you open that drum and expose it to oxygen, you’re making it less potent. I know that we could get it a lot cheaper if we bought the big drums…).

      • Shawna

        Brenda, we had a consult with the Raw Milk Institute. We were told that using a spray bottle for the teat dip was just as effective as the dip cup. That method saves a lot of dip. Also, we were told that a .5% dilution in the winter and .25% in the summer is apprpriate. Our bottle of teat dip is 1%, so when we dilute, we save product. Our bacteria counts are low…less that SPC <100 and 0 Coliform.

  • Ken

    Are the cows pastured? Meaning, are the costs you list for alfalfa and barley just the average from feeding during the winter while they graze during the summer? If they are not out to pasture of course the cost to feed them will be much more. It seems like not having a pasture for a cow is like not having the equipment you need to operate cheaper.

    Also, you only averaged the start-up costs over a 2 year period? Why? Do you expect to replace all of that within 2 years? Averaging that cost over a longer lifespan will increase your ‘wage’. Any income after the 5 yrs (or 2 in your analysis) will just add to the increase.

    Are you drinking any of the milk yourself (or giving away free)? Those gallons would need to be accounted for in your analysis and depending on how much your family uses (mine drinks 4 gallons/week) could be significant.

    I used to pay $10/gal and had to drive an hour each way every week to get raw milk. I found a closer source and now pay $6/gal. Even at $10/gal I consider raw milk an essential in my house.

    Hang in there!

    • Brenda

      Hi Ken, they are pastured, and we rotate them onto paddocks of fresh grass. We tried taking out the alfalfa and our 1 dairy cow at that time started looking sick and lethargic and stopped producing as much milk. We called the vet out & he said she needed the alfalfa, year-round, around here. We feed barley & probiotic at every milking to keep the cows in place, all year round. We’ve also been told that around here, you *can’t* feed a dairy cow all grass-fed, that they won’t get enough nutrients. I only divided the start-up costs over a 2 year period because some of those expenses will be replaced in 2 years or less. Our main producing cow is 7 years old, and who knows how long she’ll be milking. Since I wrote this post, we have bought a 3rd Jersey, who is milking and due with calf this summer. πŸ™‚ The fencing start-up costs are only the beginning. We want to add more paddocks for the cows, and there will be extra expense. We are using 1-2 gallons per week for our family. We have not given any away, though we have traded some. You’re right, I should calculate that in. Thanks for the comment! πŸ™‚

      • IDConstitutionist

        Not sure where in OR you live, but I’m in south-central ID (near Twin Falls). The western states are very selenium and other minerals deficient. Plus with little rain and next to nothing for snow, it’s hard to grow grasses that are tolerant and nutritious. My vet has me feeding 2 or 3 cutting alfalfa to my Saanens even tho I have pasture.

  • Lindsey

    I only recently discovered that buying from the farmer when he makes his milk drop-off at the co-op saves us $2/gal over buying from the co-op. All it takes is placing a weekly order and being there to meet the truck. Maybe this isn’t an option for all people (or maybe most people are lucky enough to get it right off the farm!) but it’s a big help for us.

  • T Foster

    Unfortunately we no longer have a society that thinks in terms of working for yourself and instead thinks more of “someone needs to provide a job for me” or “I deserve a living wage”. Before the industrial revolution wages were given to servants, not independent craftsmen, farmers or workers. People who provided their own living never broke it down to an hourly or daily wage because that was for servants who depended on independent people to provide their living. That said, this type of a business model simply cannot be compared to wage work. Instead, especially if you are trying to avoid becoming nothing more than a factory farm model, It could more easily be thought of in terms of : I want to have raw milk for my family. It will cost me such and such amount to have a cow to do so. In order to lower or eliminate the costs or even make extra money back I could have extra cows. The costs don’t just double or triple with extra cows so to at least break even with expenses and labor and cover our personal milk usage we need to charge such and such per gallon. Anything over that amount is extra I wouldn’t have had if I had just produced milk for my own family. After that it’s all about what price the market will bare. If you charge more than what people are willing or can afford to pay then you will end up with milk you can’t sell and laboring more then you need to. What you need to do then is choose if you find it worth it to provide raw milk for others in your area or not. It’s called Independence and Free Market capitalism. When you start bring in all the “it’s not fair and people better feel grateful I do anything at all” servant mentality all you do is pretty much tell people they are better off either going milk free or just buying it at the store. Be angry all you want about the people who buy raw milk but they are the consumer in this exchange and can just choose to not buy. Although, in one sense it might very well be a good thing too. When prices are too high more people look at just having their own cow or goat. Supply and demand and market prices, so much easier to understand when one outs the emotions away for a short bit.

    • Lisa C

      She didn’t sound angry to me. She wrote this post to explain the cost of production. People are used to seeing milk for about $3/gallon in the store, and they can’t understand why unprocessed milk would cost more. Customers might think she is jacking up the price to make more money, but really what she has done is figured out how much it costs to produce her product and charged a little extra so her family can actually have an income. That’s what all business models must do if they are to survive. She has a market for her milk, and it’s working out fine. In fact, in Oregon there are always waiting lists for raw milk because there isn’t enough to go around.

        • IDConstitutionist

          You were? Your post sure doesn’t sound like it. It sounds directed at Brenda specifically. I do not feel that it could be directed at me and my situation. Explain to me how it’s referring to the emotions of the posters.

  • Terjules

    2 years ago we bought land and moved from the suburbs. We were tired and frustrated with store bought food. We both have full time jobs, have three dairy cows, garden. We sell our milk for $6 gallon.

  • MrPlace

    $10 a gallon is not gouging, Lets break it down. Sodas cost $1.50 ( I
    have seen it for $2.00) for 20oz = $9.60 gallon (how many soda bottles
    does a person buy a week?). Starbucks Venti Latte’s @ one a day @ $5.25 x
    5 = $26.25. Naked juice 15.2oz @ $3.39 or 32oz @ $4.99 = $28.54/$19.96 a
    gallon. Simply Orange high pulp natural OJ, not from concentrate 64oz @
    $3.99 = $7.98 gallon.

    So it is all just perspective. Like gas
    prices or beef prices, people needs to decide what it is they want. I
    use to be a Starbucks addict and spending that much money didn’t bother
    me because I could afford it.

    Raw milk is like organic produce
    and meat, it is something that minimum wage workers are going to be able
    to afford, and we should choke the farmer in order to make it
    affordable to those who cant afford it. Mainstream food is subsidized so
    the less fortunate can afford food.

    We have 15 nubian dairy
    goats, raise LBH pork, pasture chickens, and a 20’x60′ greenhouse. We
    donate and give away a lot of food each year. This is how we choose to
    help those who do not have access or ability, but as farmers, we
    shouldn’t lower our prices to try and compete with subsidized food.
    There is nothing wrong with marketing to and selling to the demographics
    that can afford what we do, and in turn make a reasonable living.

    and the wife both have full time 40+ hour a week jobs, and come home
    and spend 20+ hours a week with farm chores. We are very passionate
    about food quality and food availability.

  • Guest

    No I would not pay more for raw milk. I do not see where you have included the tax break yet get for ag assessment. If you don’t love the work then don’t do it. It seems to me that you are not happy with the response your blog. Farmers make money. I live in farm country and there are some very wealthy farmers who are making more then our household does. Stop whining and go milk a cow!

    • Brenda

      The tax break? Homes with land cost more than homes in a neighborhood–so what about the higher mortgage that farmers have to pay? I also didn’t include the extra hours that my husband spends unloading 2,000 lbs of feed from a truck at 10 pm, etc. The tax break is minuscule compared to the hours we spend. We do love the work, but what I’m trying to explain in this post is that we (and other farmers) deserve a fair wage for our work–whether we love it or not. I’m not sure why you assume that I’m not happy with the response on my blog? I wasn’t whining in this post, I was simply stating the facts. If there are farmers near you that make good incomes, awesome! But that is not true for all farmers. The US Department of Agriculture says that the average farmer spends $109,000 per year on equipment/farm expenses and only 1 out of 4 farmers in the US makes more than $50,000 gross per year. That doesn’t even cover the cost of expenses–and that is the reality for most farms in the United States, which is very sad.

    • IDConstitutionist

      You won’t see this as you posted a year ago as a “Guest”. You have NO clue what you are talking about and are comparing apples to oranges. Stop your whining and become a wealthy farmer like those around you. I am a goat dairy farmer selling unpasteurized milk from my “7” goats (Idaho allows 3 cows &/or 7 goats &/or 7 sheep) that I’m allowed. If it weren’t for being my husband’s caregiver, I wouldn’t be able to support the goats. Feed costs are tremendously high in southern ID due to all the MEGA dairies in the State.

      I’ve read thru all the posts to here and Brenda doesn’t sound unhappy with the responses to her blog. In fact, it sounds like she’s learned from people. YOU need to get a “Life”!!

  • Echo Vector

    My family has been dairy farming small scale for over 200 years, and I have to tell you, with all due respect, if those numbers of yours are correct, well, you are doing it wrong.

    You are outsourcing yourselves into an early grave.

    But don’t let me be the one to tell you that. You go right on doing what you are doing.

    I’ll check back in a few decades and see if you’ve wised up or tossed in the towel.

    • IDConstitutionist

      Since you posted a year ago, I don’t suppose I’ll get an answer, especially as you never responded to Brenda. How is she Outsourcing herself into an early grave? Please explain what you mean. While she has cows and I have goats, I can only sell from 7 legally and my figures run similar to hers. Tell us what we are doing wrong. I can’t go to any of these MEGA dairies cause their model doesn’t work like mine.

  • Mel

    Thank you so much for the breakdown. I pay about $15/gallon and have justified it by knowing that my farmer (Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures) is out there fighting for our access to real food. The activism you all have to do isn’t accounted for in your breakdown. πŸ™‚

    And some people n the comments seem to think you’re having a pity party over the “wage” but I took your post to be a simple breakdown of what goes into each gallon. You’re not complaining! You’re simply breaking it all down. It’s good information to know. And I think it helps people respect their food (or other products) when they know the time and energy that go into it -and the LOVE! Of course you wouldn’t be doing it all if you didn’t love it!

    Thank you for all that you do!

  • Lisa C

    After reading so many comments, I’m surprised how negative some people are to seeing a breakdown of the costs. I mean, obviously you don’t give yourself an hourly wage, you were just illustrating the costs and reminding people that labor should at least be considered. I sure don’t expect farmers to work for free, I’m surprised there are those who do.

    As a small business owner, I totally understand when people complain about your prices. I actually underpay myself as well, just to be more affordable to people. And they still think I’m expensive. Oh, well, my market is the people who value my product.

  • AshleyK

    Thank you for sharing this! I grew up as a 4-H “farmer” and know the time and expense that goes into raising stock. I really, really get sick of the entitlement mentality toward quality food. If people don’t want to pay someone to produce good food, then Grow It Yourself! When the response is “I don’t have the time,” then I think the cost argument is well-answered.
    Thank you for giving your life (and your family) to the service of good food for good people.

    • Brandy Lambert

      I agree it’s hard to find raw organic GMO free milk here. We are in Cary/Apex area. We started over a year ago with organic GMO free eggs with plans for a milk cow. We now have 3 goats, 30 chickens, 13 ducks, and a pig. We are planning on getting a milk cow very soon and plan to sell shares. NC does not allow you to sell raw milk only shares.

  • Tim Elliott

    Moved to the NW several decades ago and met a dairy farmer. He showed me around his operation and told me what required. My comment? “I can’t imagine anyone doing this willing!” My hat is off to all to those who love it AND make a living doing it!

  • Eva Corbett

    If Oregon didn’t cap the number of cows you milked, and allowed you the freedom to sell off farm, would you be able to earn a good living off of selling raw dairy for half that cost?

    • IDConstitutionist

      I’m have no idea of Brenda’s situation, but probably not. To make a good living, one would need a lot of cows in a Grade A dairy and there isn’t much money in that either.

  • dlo

    pay $4. I used to pay $12..and I get better milk now….. I will never
    pay over $6. Maybe people should wake up to the fact this isn’t a good
    business venture.. especially once you get the dang men who call
    themselves government involved. It is simply a way to provide for your
    family and a few others. It’s when people try to turn this into a
    business that the costs sky rocket. I will continue to get my milk from
    the lady down the street who just wants to sell off her extra, after
    feeding her kids. Her kids do the milking as experience… and at $4 an
    hour.. she still says she makes a profit.

    • Brenda

      dlo, so what would you suggest, that people just give up trying to produce raw milk for sale, since “this isn’t a good business venture”?
      “It’s when people try to turn this into a business that the costs sky rocket.”
      Do you think that the people who do keep a cow on hand, just to feed their family, ought to sell the “extra” milk below their own monthly costs? Do you think that they don’t deserve any money for their time and labor?
      I would be leery of any farm where the children are doing the milking. (Unless they are well-trained teenagers). I mentioned above, any tweak in how we do things (in the cleanliness procedures, amount of alfalfa or barley or probiotic, etc.) can cause a huge difference in our bacteria count (between 5 and 3,000–from 1 little thing done differently). Are they testing their milk? I would highly suggest that you only buy raw milk from a farm that does regular (at least monthly) testing.

    • Shawna

      And your nice neighbor lady is subsidizing your milk. Make sure to thank her. Her model is not sustainable, so enjoy it while it lasts.

    • IDConstitutionist

      That makes NO sense. You pay $4 and then state that she makes a profit at $4 an hour. Your $4 gets you a gallon (you don’t say, but I’m figuring that’s what you meant). Either she uses an awful lot of milk for the family and sells just a gallon to you or she sells all left overs for $4 a gallon. Say it’s a cow that gives 5 gallons, she uses 2 gals a day and sells 3. That is actually $12 and it should not have taken her an hour to milk the cow. So, in reality, she made over $4 an hour.

  • isharoad

    When I had a milk cow (Dexter – gave only half gallon twice a day) I did not share the milk with anyone! It was too valuable to me. My family drank it all. I can’t really afford to buy someone else’s time and labor but I didn’t have to give mine away either.

  • lalalaa

    I just have to wonder, does it take 40 hours a week to milk/produce from two cows? Milking those two cows is all you do? That’s the only income you have? I’d suggest that the actual hours per day spent on two cows is considerably less than 8. Sorry, I have a hard time believing this is an accurate cost per hour break down.

    • Brenda

      lalalaa, I stated in the article how much time it takes to milk the cows every day. They are only a part of our farm, we raise pastured broilers, turkeys, geese, ducks, pigs and cows for beef, as well as bees for honey and a large garden for veggies. It takes 2 hours per day to milk the cows and clean the equipment, plus at least an hour every week (probably quite a bit more than 1 hour, I have realized after writing this post) to communicate with customers about their milk pick up for the week, money they owe, etc….

      • Shawna

        Brenda, not to mention all the time you spend on logistics. People think milking the cows are all that is involved in producing milk on the small scale. But there is SO much more to it. Heat detecting, scheduling breeding, confirming breeding, researching feed, calling to find out about feed, going and getting the feed, stacking and storing the feed, watching for labor to start, assisting with calving, feeding the calf, vaccinating and dehorning the calf, going to the farm store and buying those vaccinations, and supplements, and , and, and.

        And…don’t forget health care. I don’t know how many hours we spend out in the barn messing with our delicate dairy cows…who have a touch of the belly ache, or are a bit off-feed, or who are at risk for milk fever…or who HAVE milk fever.

        We love it, that’s why we do it. But the idea that producing milk at this scale takes a quick 2 hours per day is a joke.

  • Robin

    I pay roughly $40/month and I go to the farm and help hand milk, feed, etc. 1 night/week. The nice lady gives me 3 gallons/week. Not quite sure what that comes to as far as cost per gallon but I love getting the experience!

  • Naomi Schoenfeld

    I pay about $6.00 per half gallon, and while I wince when reconciling the credit card, I keep reaching for that milk rather than the less expensive raw milk next to it on the shelf in my health food store. In my mind, if someone can afford to sell raw milk cheaply, they’re driving costs down somehow – and probably in a way that I wouldn’t like if I knew about it.

  • Becky E

    I don’t feel the start up cost should be included in the profit you make. You would have had to have those items whether you were going to sell the milk or not. Most of them are a one time expense with the exception of repairs, which should be included in the expenses. I’m definitely not an accountant so I’m just seeing it a little differently, and would probably have reconfigured the taxes I would pay.

  • Leah

    I sell %100 grass fed, mostly organic, all non-gmo raw milk. I need to get at least $7 per gallon not to lose money (that barely makes me break even) and people complain about the price. I also sell aged artisian cheese at our local farmer’s market from the same milk and many people have a fit if I charge over $8 dollars a pound (it takes 1 gallon of milk to make 3/4 pound of aged cheddar). I honestly don’t know if I’ll continue because I’m working myself to death, going broke and I am getting tired of the raised eyebrows at my (honestly) modest prices. Sigh.

  • Leah

    I sell raw, 100% grass fed, mostly organic and all non-gmo milk and people balk at the $7 per gallon that barely covers my prices. I also sell artisan aged cheese at our local farmer’s market that I make raw and age over 60 days from my milk. People seem offended if I charge more than $8 per pound (it takes 1 gallon of milk to make 3/4 pound of aged cheddar). The government subsidies have created the illusion of cheap food when it really doesn’t exist. I honestly don’t know if I’ll continue because I’m working myself to the bone and getting tired of the raised eyebrows at my (honestly) below profit prices.

  • Heather

    The time is why I do not sell milk – I produce it for our own family because of the health benefits and the benefit of raising children out of the city. I also can’t afford to pay the price it is worth so when we can’t produce it, we simply do without. If others want it badly they can raise their own cow and see what kind of work is involved in it ;).
    HAving said that, I have culled for healthy grass producing cows. I am sentimental because I love the cows, but I am a realistic who has a very harsh environment and culls for cows who can exist on grass because they HAVE to pay for their own feed. If they lose condition I feed what they need until I can sell to somebody who doesn’t mind feeding them that way. Or they go into the freezer with a prayer of thanks for the food. πŸ™‚ If they are not bred within 2 months then unfortunately they are eaten. If they have health problems, mastitis, ketosis, milk fever etc we don’t keep them. And that means we do not have cows who need hooves trimmed or cows that have lice issues or require deworming etc.
    Our average cow will produce 40-46lbs milk per day on lowland pasture and 5lbs of GMO free alfalfa pellets. The pellets are unnecessary and are simply because I like to feed cows when I milk them and I won’t feed beet pulp or grain. Having said that, when I use them it costs me $1.30 per day, so I try not to do it, as alfalfa pellets are $600 per ton and prime dairy quality alfalfa hay here is only $200-250. Makes no sense to feed pellets when hay is 1/3rd the price.
    When she is fed hay it costs me $1.00 in grass hay (we have it delivered for $40 per round bale), and $1.40 in alfalfa hay as I feed top quality GMO free alfalfa squares. My mineral costs are $11.00 per year (we use regular minerals, kelp and redmonds). I do not trim my cows feet – if they can’t keep them short then they are found a home that doesn’t mind trimming. I also do not keep hard doers and find homes that don’t mind grain feeding. I won’t let a cow get thin or lose condition here (a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast), but I won’t keep them.
    I spend $4.00 per year on vinegar and citric acid to clean my nupulse milker. Teat dip is not required for milking, sanitation or cleanliness (ask my microbiology and food safety major husband). Keep the lovely ladies on pasture, or on good bedding and standing for 30+ minutes after milking and the teat orifices will close up and be good. Homemade udder balms work fantastically well for cuts, abrasions or dryness. I spend more on my udder balm than anything else because I personally am allergic to the world and therefore I make it for me and not the cow.
    I do not deworm my cows. Having said that, I do not ignore them and pretend there are no problems. I have had a lot of years and done studies and research on the topic of parasites (internal and external – I love bugs!), and having done my own fecal egg counts multiple times per year for years plus following the latest research on parasites, I am comfortable knowing that my unstressed cows with good nutrition and feed will not succumb to the effects of internal parasites after the age of 2-3. Obviously it varies a bit from region to region to some extent, but my contact with the reps and through research, I am very confident of this. I have not had to deworm a cow in 13 years although I did have to deworm my horse when I got married and moved him from 160 acres to a 32×32 paddock. Otherwise the cows, dogs, pigs, horses, turkeys etc always have clean fecals. They cost me nothing because I learned how to do them myself from charts printed up off the internet and a free microscope gotten from a school and lots of hours (this was before i got married and had 4 little girls). I

    I have no pump oil costs because I use an oilless rotary vane pump. I purchased it for $99 used. I am a woman who has ZERO mechanical ability, but also not a lot of money due to debt we are trying to get out of, so I spent a few days researching (hey that counts as homeschooling 4 young ones under the age of 7 right :), and for $900 I set up a proper cleaning station with jetter, two pumps (one for the barn, one for the house), a brand new milk machine, cleaning supplies, pipes, cords, shut offs, stop cock, pressure regulators etc.
    Our cows give us enough milk to be able to feed our pigs and chickens straight crushed grain we purchase direct from farmers for .14c per lb. Until I fed a lot of milk, we formulated our own rations to get the proper lysine, methionine ratios and the feed was gmo, corn and soy free also and cost .22c per lb to feed. The use of milk allows us to use 1/4 the amount of grain for the pigs and chickens and we do not have to feed any minerals, protein supplement etc We are able to raise our meat birds free range on crushed wheat or barley and milk and at 8 weeks they are 6+ lbs. At 12 weeks we can have 8-9lb birds.
    If we have the 2 gallons per day of milk to give each pig, they will refuse to eat any grain. It is quite the thing to realize how incredibly self sufficient one can be with a good homestead cow. πŸ™‚
    On top of that, we get all the butter and cream, milk, cheese and yogurt we need for a year (the chickens and pigs gain the same on skim vs. whole).
    We have 4 cows, 2 heifers, 3 steers, and 2 adult bulls (we are selling one this year :).
    My hay bill last year for the cows was $2600 for the entire herd and that was $900 more than the year before because we had 78 days where it was below -30F and the cows get free choice hay and they simply ate way more than we anticipated. I count on it costing me $300 per year to keep a cow in hay and pasture only. When I factor in her minerals, udder balm, kelp, redmond, and alfalfa hay it goes up $125 – 175 per year depending on the year. The cost of the alfalfa pellets is $600 per cow that I milk (the ones I let raise calves don’t get pellets). So I know it will cost me $1300 to have a milk cow. For that I get enough milk to raise a calf, at least 1 pig and 25 chickens as well as butter, milk, yogurt, cream and cheese for our house. My lowest producing will give 900 gallons over a 300 day lactation. That means my cost to produce milk is $1.44 per gallon. The best producing gave 1625 gallons her last lactation. That means it was only .80c per gallon to produce it.
    But hay chores, scooping poop, milking and tending a calf may take me 2 hours per day. That 2 hours is well spent with my girls – my 6 and 4 year old water the bulls for me (obviously not with them, but through the fence), my 7 year old can grind the grain, hooks up the milker, runs the cows in, my 2 year old hands me the udder balm, clothes for cleaning and helps fill up her Papa’s cup with fresh warm milk after the milking is done – each of them are vitally important to the production of OUR food and it is teaching them good work ethic, responsibility, an understanding of the cost of food, where food comes from, etc. They are taught more genetics, sex ed, mathematics, science, spelling and even second language (when they do it with their Dad who loves Greek, latin and the root words – I am not so good a teacher as my hubby), and it is giving them insane life skills that will do them good no matter where God takes them in this life – even if it is not on a wee 5 acre property like it is here. They are learning to be responsible for what they have, how to utilize things to their maximum (it is no easy feat to rotationally graze that number of animals on 5 acres), the importance of diversity on a small farm in order to be sustainable, how to be independent but reliant on others (each of them is a vital part of the team here), they are learning that some things are just a part of life and there is no need to think twice about it because just as doing dishes or making food is part of life, so is doing chicken chores so you can have eggs etc – it is all just a part of life.
    They are learning how to be inventive (we built our first cow barn out of free pallets and metal and they built their own playhouse out of recycled siding), how to be problem solvers (being tight in money requires a lot of problem solving *G*) and how to pinch pennies in ways that count (we can’t afford $2200 to buy a ready set up milk machine so where can we safely save and when is not a good idea to try to save). They are included in conversations about the economics of a farm and in conversations about how to simplify life so we can spend more time swimming and hiking in the evening in our all too short summers ;). They also learn how to make wise decisions on food, recreation because what they chose in one area impacts them in others – buying store bought milk is not an option, so if we want to “play”, they we won’t have milk that year and they love their milk and their straight healthy teeth ;).
    Much of the world can not necessarily afford the cost of good food. I could not afford healthy chicken unless I produced it, raw milk unless I milk the cow, organic veggies unless I produced them myself. We are not necessarily going to make our living ever on the farm and my husband recently closed down our own business because he was working 2x the hours (and so was I!)and making less than he could working for somebody else. He found a less than optimal job that is requiring us to move (he has to work every weekend), but it allows him to be home the majority of the week so we have the time we feel we need with our young family. We realize it will take us 2x the amount of time to pay off our debt, but we will never get these years back with our children. We will never look back and regret this time with them, but we were already regretting the time we had lost getting a business up and running and then being married to it.

    I pray for wisdom for your family as you make these tough decisions about life. There are a million ways to do things and God calls us each to our own path. Living in the city doesn’t mean it has to be devoid of animals, but one also can own a bit of land for one’s own sake and not so the family can make a living or farm. I pray you find your happy medium πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous

    Realistically I do pay a little over $5/gal and would pay up to about $10. I just couldn’t do more than that. I certainly could not afford and would not pay $30/gal. I want my farmer to earn a living wage and believe she does. She got into raw milk about 18 months ago and I and a few friends were her only customers. Now I’m told she has about 70. It must be worth it to her!

    When you choose to run your own business, you can’t count hourly wages like you might while working for others. It takes a lot of hard work and that’s how it is — it’s rough sometimes. I run my own business too and I’ve never taken the time to break it down, but I’m sure I make less than $5/hour despite making a decent income because of the long hours I work. It’s what I’ve chosen.

  • Tiffany

    Thank you for this breakdown. I always get upset when Is see people selling raw milk for cheaper than what we pay but now that I see the breakdown – it really helps. We just switched farmers (only because our other raw milk producer is going out of business) but we are now paying $14 per gallon.

  • Katie Craig

    Hi! We have two Jersey cows and are new to milking/cow care. First of all, we LOVE having our own cows. But the hardest thing has been the lack of literature on how to feed them. We wanted to do all grass-fed, but after they gave birth, the started dropping their weight fast. We have introduced a conventional feed and they look better, but one is still super skinny. My question: we want to move away from conventional feeds so how do you feed them the rolled barley? DO you sprout it? Where do you order your minerals and how much do you mix in with the barley? I would love any help as to how to make our own feed and where to order the materials. Thank you!

  • Nicole Kezama

    I have had goats (in between farms right now, moving to new farm in the spring) We sold our goat milk for 4.00 a litre which is 16.00 a gallon. We never had extra. We were not making a lot, it is definitely a labour of love. I have bought cows milk for 12.00 a gallon and a girlfriend buys it for 15.00 a gallon. To all of you who want your milk CHEAP, shame on you. Cheap milk comes from confined animals that are fed poor food, anti-biotics and are not allowed to be the way nature intended. Their babies are taken from them even though their maternal insticnts are high. I don’t agree with bottle feeding either. I do think 30.00 a gallon is way too high, but 12.00 – 18.00 is reasonable. To the farmer side of things…..We never fed grain, of any kind. It results in a way healthier milk and better health of the cow. Yes you production will possibly go down 25% but its worth it. It also makes your milk more desireable as many people are looking for grass fed milk. Also we had 6 does and no milking machine. For me this is a no brainer. You likely only have one machine unless you are hooking both cows up at the same time. But honestly 2 cows is nothing to milk by hand. Then also you have less cleanup as there is no machine to clean. We never used teat dip. We cleaned prior to milking with a warm water and melaluca essential oil added to it. But there are lots of recipies for homemade teat dip if you feel it necessary. I don’t want to start an argumentative debate (it seems as there are enough of those going on already)I am pointing out a few ways to reduce costs and keep it real. Do I believe in cheap food? NO! Do I believe farmers are rich? NO! But we should be able to do our thing, keep our costs down and support our families in a reasonable manner. We are not going to get rich, but a lot of us are in it for the glory. πŸ™‚

  • sabi

    In northern CA we pay $10 per half gallon for our herd share, so that’s $20 per gallon. I know our farmers are not getting rich off of this, and we are pleased to have access to such liquid gold.

  • slight9

    $30 a gallon! I’m sorry, but the market sets the price. I don’t care what people think they deserve as a wage. Deserving has nothing to do with it. Wages are earned, and it takes more than just hard work. You have to also provide a product or service that people will buy at a price they will pay. I pay $8. I would stop buying it if it were much over $12. I could better spend that money on something else. And where I live, $11/hour is not a bad wage for a part-time job.

  • tokies

    i have such mix feelings on this. I dont think we drink raw milk correctly in america. milk should be drunken within a 48 hour period or turn into something else. for example as a kid when we had extra milk mom would turn it into yogart, or butter. or something else it never sat. the issue with RAw milk isnt the milk it’s the customer. personally. again. id look into pasture cropping depending on how much land you have. it can be down once every 5 years. and again.. id look into ethnic markets, and milk different things as well as cows but goats, sheep, so forth.. lately we have been having a back and forth should we buy 20 camels lol. each anamail fills a grazing nitch. it’s complete solution instead to what you might be doing. what builds a good farm is a good breeding program and a good system of gathering feed. “$36.54 per month Alfalfa” dont do that that. it’s unwise sow alfafa as a pasture crop. also make sure your customer understand they shouldnt keep milk for long periods of time. i think the oddest biggest market for us isnt in human’s it’s in pets. .. id also look into moblie milk better for the feet our goal is keep everything on grass and move move move. it’s profitable. right now for our time and keep in mind i work from home in computer design. we make about $15 hr from CSA. $20 hr from selling. out of box extras not from CSA. our biggest problem right now is my internet connection sucks out here in nowhere califorina. also oddly enough this all started because he wouldnt mow the pastures which we didnt know was a pasture.. i just called it a lawn lol we had to get something to eat it.

  • carolpeedie

    I know this is an old post/blog, but here’s my input:

    I pay $8.50/gal in MI, and in this state there are only cow shares and usually delivery (vs store-bought.) Currently our farmer wants to raise his prices via a $5 increase for a “delivery charge.” My first reaction to this was, although It’s a reasonable increase for many [of his] customers who buy several items each week (as he also sells various other things besides raw milk,) it’s also a really raw deal for customers picking up only 1 gallon of milk. (Sorry couldn’t resist the pun.) Making it $13.50 per gallon for many.

    BUT after reading your post today… AND considering actual cost per 8oz glass of milk, I see that even $16 per gallon is still fairly reasonable. Further thought reminds me that many of us have probably purchased at one time or another those little Horizon Organic milk cartons they sell at the grocery stores; they often go for as low as $1 each on sale. (At least at the Michigan Kroger stores around me they do,) which of course works out to $16/ per gallon. And that ain’t raw milk, either!

    So thanks for this great posting with the breakdown of farm and production of raw milk… it’s good to keep reminding folks like me of all that’s involved!

  • Ashley C

    Old post, but wow it is good to see it laid out like that. We’re currently in Germany and can get raw milk for 55 euro cents per liter. So ~x4 and convert based on current exchange rate, so still only around $2.50/gallon. It is actually cheaper than the UHT/homo organic store milk! I do hear though that they ship off their milk (their herd is fairly large) so I am thinking that perhaps they sell to locals on the cheap and then make their real money on selling it to a bigger distributor? Not sure, but I love getting raw milk at that price lol. I cringe seeing the prices in the US, but when I see the costs involved it is only fair to pay those premiums! I think focusing our budget on quality (and nutrient density) over quantity is a healthy, smart choice.

  • Amy

    Why not just sell herd shares? Then peopl e aren’t paying for the milk, they’re paying for the upkeep of the cows and the cows themselves. Ever since I moved out to Oregon, whenever I mention I’m looking for raw milk, people give this fearful look like its so hush hush. In Virginia, it’s not a big deal at all because people don’t sell milk, they sell herd shares.

  • John

    I love this breakdown. But the sampling data is so small – one cow. A theorized second milking cow. There is an efficiency to producing en mass. One man milks. One man does clean up. Etc. When you get more cows the price will drop and you will sell more as the price drops and you are able to supply a regular supply of organic milk.

    You will make lots of money….but you will need more cows.

  • Iron Arrows Homestead

    Thanks for this article. I am trying to figure out how much to charge for raw goat pet milk (as we call it in TN). I will freeze it before selling it crazy cheap/giving it away. I am thinking about charging $7-8 per gallon or $3.50-$4 for a half gallon. We pasture our goat and feed with healthy organic supplements (barley, sunflower seeds, molasses, buckwheat, etc). I probably spend about an hour getting and filtering a gallon (1/2 gall twice a day), plus the cost of buying the goat, the land she grazes, the barn, water, cleaning supplies, etc. I don’t think $8 is crazy, but people are used to the government subsidized milk, so they are in shock. Does anyone else sell goat milk? I think it’s usually pricier bcs it takes a whole day to get a gallon. I would love a dairy cow as well, but we’ll have to save up to buy a high quality cow. I’m new to this, comments appreciated. We live in Tennessee. Usually a gallon of raw cow milk is $9-10.

  • Anonymous

    GREAT BREAKDOWN – I dont’ raise cows or milk even . We have goats for our personal milk – but we figure what we save . Did your income adjust for months when there is little if any milk production? Or worse if you are hit by disease or death? Even so you have some costs not accounted for….. electricity, for one. Start up costs will be mitigated a bit by depreciation on taxes and any deductions for farming ( do they stilll give credits?). Also the costs for fencing and gates and such should be more spread out like 7 years not 2 (in my opinion). What about offsets from selling offspring? at the point you get more cows – you need better method of milking (rather than manual) … The only way to make a profit in ANY business (watch Shark Tank) is to reduce your costs. Raising prices can be necessary, but you dont’ want to price yourself out of the market – although that 16-30 bucks sounds like exclusive club. People that use a gallon a day for family of 4 with young children – would not be able to afford that. Also selling to repeat customers that use a LOT of milk is good way to reduce time spent in customer management.

  • JB

    I recently priced raw milk at my local Farmer’s Market in the San Jose, CA area in 2015.. The price was $8.00 per quart. At this price a gallon is $32.00 a gallon. I don’t know how many people can afford to pay this amount.

  • John Swanson

    I live in Colorado and am currently paying approximately 12.50 per gallon. Here we can’t buy raw milk we have to own the cow so I bought a share of the Orchard Mountain Farms ( herd for $50. Pretty reasonable I think, then I pay a maintenance fee of $50 per month to cover the cost of my share and for that I receive 1gal per week DELIVERED the old fashion way to my doorstep. I took a tour of the farm in its startup phase and was impressed with the growth plan and the procedures used to maintain a clean and sterile environment. I grew up on raw milk and started milking the old fashioned way, milking by hand into a stainless steel bucket then eventually moved up to a milking machine. It is a lot of work but we had 8 mouths to feed. My mom, who grew up on a dairy farm, made butter, ice-cream and several other dairy products from our milk. We also raised beef cattle, chickens and had a large vegie garden. Its time to get back to basics πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous

    there is nothing like pouring off some cream in the morning into a mason jar and shaking it, making the best butter in the world. No salt, no additives, just pure butter. ummmmmmmmm

  • Cory

    I’m a little late to this party so not sure if my comment will even be seen by anyone. Quite honestly I only read about half way down before I was sick of reading the comments of those who basically say, a farmer shouldn’t earn a good living growing the most healthy, nutritious delicious food that can possibly be raised. I wonder how many who commented watch any pro athletes, who are payed millions, to, know matter how you shake it, play a game. Or, how many have sat in a bar or restaurant and drank a beer, or glass of wine and paid, 3, 4, or more dollars for a 16oz glass, just FYI, at 3.00/16 oz glass = 24.00/gallon. Folks let’s be honest and call it what it is. Charging an amount that provides the farmer with a good living, is not goughing the customer. It’s ensuring their making a fair wage, to continue to be there to provide the food, that those who have the priority to buy healthy nutritious food, want to buy. I’m so tired of hearing how, there’s no more farmers to take over, yea no kidding, who in there right mind wants to work for free. I love farming, but I’m not willing to do it for others for free. Because no matter how much you enjoy it, there are many days, when, it’s just plain work. It’s not all sunshine, beautiful green lush grass, birds chirping, etc, etc, etc. Its work, hard work, and if you don’t feel a farmer should be a respected, well paid occupation, then you, I’m afraid, are part of the problem.

  • Jen

    Hi everyone, I hope someone can answer me. I want to buy sheeps milk but it cost 25 dollars from one farmer and 19 from the other why the big difference and why is it so much more money for sheeps milk? I can fill my car gas with this money . Thank you

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