NEPC2011 Meeting Index

Robert Richardson, owner and operator of Rocky Acres Farm, spoke next. He is a Massachusetts dairy farmer who bottles and sells raw milk. Approximately 30% of the milk produced on the farm is sold as raw milk to a co-op. The rest is sold to Agri-Mark. Thirty to forty percent of the milk net income produced comes from the raw milk.

The sale of raw milk began in MA about 8 years ago as more consumers wanted to purchase raw milk. This initiated Buying Clubs which facilitated delivery of raw milk to customers from raw milk producing farms. The Buying Clubs distributed milk that was bottled and labeled separately by each farm. No raw milk was co-mingled from different farms into bottles. The milk was kept cool and delivered to pick up points. This saved the time and energy involved if each customer individually had to go to a farm and purchase the milk at the farm. Recently though, these Buying Clubs were told to desist from selling milk in this manner since they were not licensed to sell milk. Currently, there is no regulatory mechanism for Buying Clubs to become licensed in MA either. This had a very chilling effect on sales of raw milk. Twenty-seven farms sell raw milk in MA. Bob was the fourth farmer to sign-up to become a raw milk producer.

In MA, state regulations require once a month milk inspection of raw milk facilities on each farm, instead of every 3 months for farms producing milk that is pasteurized. Bob changes the inflations on the milkers every 3 months. He strives for a low somatic cell count of 125,000 or less. He makes sure there is no wild onion in the pastures to avoid off-flavored milk. This is most important in the spring.

He has a seasonal calving dairy herd. The herd freshens in late winter and are on put on pasture in late April to the first of May. His cull rate is only 10-12 percent. He prefers Holsteins as a dairy breed. He does not like Jersey-Holstein crossbred cows.

Insurance could become a problem. He heard that Whole Foods grocery chain has dropped raw milk cheese sales due to insurance issues.

Angus Johnson was the third and final speaker of Session 4. In the United States, 36 states allow raw milk sales. In New Hampshire, farmers are now allowed to sell up to 80 quarts of milk per day, up from only 20 quarts per day. Only in Connecticut and California can raw milk be sold on store shelves. However, recently a retail outlet that sold raw milk and other products made of raw milk, was shut down by enforcement agents with guns drawn. This was not the first incident of this kind and has occurred several times across the Nation.

In most states, the milk must be picked up and bought at the farm producing the raw milk. This limits sales considerably since it can be inconvenient for all, farmer and consumer.

Organic Valley and other organic milk companies will not allow their farmer members to sell raw milk on the side. The reason for this is that it lessens the amount of milk available to be picked up by the company’s milk hauler, causing their cost per hundredweight of milk to increase. This can be most acute when seasonal herds start to tail off in milk production as all the cows yield low amounts of milk at the same time just before they are dried-off for the season in preparation for calving. Raw milk sales are fairly constant while milk production peaks and then tails off. Towards the end of the herd’s lactation raw milk sales take a greater and greater share of the milk produced at a farm.