Bob-White Systems’ technology and micro dairy equipment makes dairy farming an accessible and viable avocation for any family that enjoys the rural lifestyle and wants to contribute to their community’s quality of life.
How does a micro dairy work?
A micro dairy is a small farmstead operation with 4 to 6 cows. All of the milk is sold directly from the farm or through local markets, rather than through coops or regional distributors.
Although a micro dairy alone cannot make enough money to be a family’s sole source of income, it does provide a nice supplement to other income – and, with the right dairy equipment, day-to-day farm operations can easily fit around the usual 9-to-5 work schedule. In addition, a micro dairy can be a profitable and diversified add-on to an existing vegetable or fruit farm or CSA, and can contribute valuable manure for soil enrichment – so a local micro dairy is an important part of sustainable agriculture.
How is it set up?
Up to six cows can be kept and milked in a small but comfortable barn just a bit larger than an ordinary two car garage. One half of the garage is typically used to house the cows, while the other half is used for storage and processing equipment. Further, micro dairies are low impact, and can be conveniently situated on just a few acres, without the pollution, noise, and odor of large farms.
What equipment is required?
Micro dairies are extremely simple operations. Very little equipment is required beyond the milking and processing equipment. Good water supplies are needed, as milking cows drink nearly 15 gallons of good clean water per day. A compact 20-horsepower tractor with a loader is useful for handling manure, bedding and other materials, and good fences are required for the pastures. Miscellaneous grooming and handling equipment (such as halters, leads and brushes) will be needed for the cows.
The Economics of Micro Dairies
The small scale of micro dairies allows them to avoid many of the expenses associated with large commercial dairy farms. Hired labor and machinery costs can be kept to a minimum. Vet bills, beyond occasional check ups, are almost nonexistent, barring the unforeseen. The major expenses are feed, utilities and supplies.
The average micro dairy farmer will milk four cows, ten months per year. In very conservative numbers, the average daily milk production will be five gallons per cow, or approximately 20 gallons total per day, enough to supply up to 60 families with safe, fresh, and delicious farm fresh milk.
The average annual per-farm milk production is approximately 7,000 gallons. The retail value of the milk produced by a micro dairy will be at least $5 per gallon (some micro dairies are charging $8 per gallon). Potential annual gross income per micro dairy, from milk sales alone at $5 per gallon, is $35,000.
If production costs on a micro dairy are as high as $3.50 per gallon due to processing and bottling costs, the farm’s annual production costs will be $15,750, and the farm will net $19,250 per year, not including the operator’s labor or capital costs. These figures apply to fluid milk sales alone. There are opportunities to produce farmstead cheeses and yogurts as well.
Not Just For Cows
These same basic principles also apply to goat farming and sheep farming, although the revenue figures will differ based on demand. Bob-White Systems also supplies equipment for sheep and goat milking.