Frequently Asked Questions
Why can't you just sell me some raw milk?
It is illegal to sell raw milk in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we will strive to honor the civil authorities appointed over us. It is not, however, illegal to drink raw milk from a cow that you own. As a part of your herdshare agreement, you must acknowledge that it is illegal to sell raw milk in Virginia, and you must state your intent not to sell any milk produced by this herdshare.
What is a herdshare?
Cow herdshares work from a simple premise. A person is entitled to consume raw milk produced by a cow that he or she owns. That milk never enters the stream of commerce if the owner of the cow never sells it but consumes it. Therefore, because Virginia law forbids the sale or transfer of non-pasteurized milk, we (Rehoboth Farm) sell our herd in undivided shares to a number of people who want raw cow’s milk. In this arrangement, we and our herdshare owners can honestly assert that no milk was sold or transferred. Most people don’t have the time and space to care for a cow. We solve the problem by caring for and milking your herd for you, and have established boarding arrangements with each owner of the herd. The owners pay Rehoboth Farm to feed, care for and milk the animals and the owners in turn receive the appropriate percentage of the herd's milk production.
How much milk will a share get me?
That depends, at any given time, on two things: 1) How much milk the herd is producing, and 2) How many total shares of the herd are owned. Ideally we try to sell enough shares so that when total production is divided by the total number of shares owned, each share of the production is at least one gallon a week. At the very beginning of the season (before all cows have calved) and at the end (when they may start tapering off) there may be less milk. In the late Spring and early Summer, when the cows are starting to peak in their cycle, and when the spring flush hits the pastures here on the farm, there should be a little extra milk produced. We will let you know when there is more than the nominal one gallon per week available for you to pick up at no extra charge.
What are the costs?
To purchase a share in the herd you pay a share price of $40.00. This is a one-time cost. There is also a boarding fee of $35.00 per share per month. There are monthly delivery fees, as well as occasional vet and milk testing fees. Please see our fee schedule for details.
We don't need all of our milk this month, can we pay a lower boarding fee and pick up less milk or skip a week?
The Boarding Fees you pay each month are not the purchase of the milk you receive, but are fees to sustain your herd. Fees are due monthly for each share owned. Boarding fees cannot be reduced for milk that is not picked up.
What kind of cow will I be buying?
The Rehoboth Farm herd is made up primarily of Jersey and Milking Shorthorn and crossbreeds of these, but also includes one Holstein. The butterfat and protein of our milk tends to run higher than the average farm.
Are these cows given hormones or antibiotics?
No hormones. And only when a cow is ill would we give her antibiotics—never as a preventive measure. All antibiotics have a withdrawal time during which the cow’s milk cannot be consumed. In the rare event that one of the cows must be given antibiotics, we double the recommended withholding time before using their milk.
What do you feed the cows?
The herd is primarily grass-fed as long as there is adequate grass available—generally March through November. In the winter the cows are fed the hay grown here in our valley. Their diets are supplemented with a modest amount of locally-mixed non-corn, non-soy, non-GMO feed with no animal by-products (bone meal, etc.). They also have access to vital minerals to round out their nutrition.
Where are the cows kept?
The cows are boarded at Rehoboth Farm near Mendota, Virginia. Shareholders pay a monthly boarding fee. We feed and care for the herd, milk them, and distribute the milk to the herd share owners. You’ll be asked to read and sign a boarding agreement with Rehoboth Farm when you purchase your herd share.
How do you collect and store the milk?
We milk using an automated milking system. The milk is filtered in-line into stainless steel canisters, which are emptied into a 150 gallon stainless steel refrigerated bulk tank.
How does the milk delivery and pick-up work?
Milk is bottled on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday into new plastic milk jugs, and is delivered to drop points across the southwest Virginia area on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can also arrange to pick up your milk at the farm any day after your assigned bottling day.
Why do you use plastic bottles and not glass?
Though we have considered using recyclable glass bottles, we have opted for plastic primarily for two reasons. First, by using new plastic bottles we avoid possible contamination from inadequately cleaned glass. Reusing glass would require significant additional measures in the production cycle to ensure a clean, safe product. Second, plastic bottles are more cost effective. Recycling glass would require collection and cleaning that would increase our processing labor cost and equipment overhead, which would need to be passed on to the owners of the herd share.
How can I safely store my milk?
Raw milk should be stored at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and if so it will last for several weeks. Be sure not to leave it out on the counter or the dinner table for extended periods of time to ensure this proper temperature is maintained. Care should be taken to ensure the milk is not contaminated with residual bacteria whenever the container is open.
Why does a layer of cream form on top of my milk?
Unlike milk purchased in the grocery store, this milk has not been homogenized. If you like whole milk, just shake the container prior to pouring. If you prefer skim milk, skim the cream using a ladle, or by carefully pouring the cream off the top into another container for other use. (Actually, when you manually skim this milk, it will still have about as much milk fat as grocery store "whole" milk.)
We've noticed a reduction in the amount of cream in our milk ... why would that be?
You may see some variation from time to time. Cream content in cow's milk peaks approximately two months after calving. It continues to be high for 4-6 months then decreases as the cow nears her rest time before calving again.
Can the milk be pasteurized?
We prefer our milk raw, but you can pasteurize your own milk if you wish using one of several procedures. For example, the milk can be heated to 145 F and held at that temperature for thirty minutes. Alternatively, automatic pasteurizers are available from catalogs. There are various methods out there, and we recommend that you do your research.
When does a cow produce milk?
A cow produces milk for up to a year or more after each time she has a calf. The cows in our herd produce milk from ten to fourteen months, and then are “dried-up” for sixty to eighty days prior to the birth of the next year's calf. Cows have a nine-month gestation.
When is milk available from the herdshare?
In the winter of 2015 we transitioned from a 10-month to a 12-month, year-round milking operation.
How do you produce all year?
Unlike the typical modern industrial confinement dairy where the cows in production live in cement floored barns 24x7 and are fed year-round a mixture of corn silage and other feeds (as well as hormones and antibiotics), Rehoboth Farm is primarily a grass-fed operation, using rotational grazing to provide fresh grass to the cows and to maintain good stewardship of our land. We need to supplement their grazing with hay from our valley to keep production going through the winter months when the grass is not growing. Sustaining production through the winter with more hay and additional grain may not at times prevent a small drop in production.
If each cow has a calf every year, what happens to the calf?
Complete ownership of the calves goes to Rehoboth Farm as compensation for the added cost of breeding the cows and handling the calving. Heifer calves selected for their finer qualities will stay on the farm and eventually replenish the dairy herd.
How do I get started?
Let us know and we will send the materials necessary to get you signed up. Or, if possible, you may want to visit the farm. Joining involves completing a bill-of-sale agreement and a boarding agreement. Once you read both agreements, sign them, and pay the one-time bill-of sale fee and your first boarding fee, you become a herdshare owner, and you will be entitled to begin receiving your milk.
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