I stepped into a nearly complete farm infrastructure on my first day of farming. Around here that is how most people start. It seems only recently have I noticed micro-dairies doing innovative parlor designs (my favorite, a hoop house coving two shipping containers for milk house and milk parlor) I guess my point is that I stepped into a lucky arrangement and I can’t really imagine starting entirely from scratch at my scale, at least not on my budget.
My father remembers that when he took over from his Dad it was pretty seamless: soap in the milk house, hay in the mow, and the kind of things that meant not having to think about the details when everything was brand new. My folks have been really supportive and they have worked hard to help create that same experience for my business. It is an incredibly fortunate aspect of family farming and my particularly darling parents.
To start my business I used my saving to buy cows, silage and hay. Fortunately, my first grain bill came conveniently after my first milk check. I was stepping into a situation with no stored feed and had a hard time finding silage and hay nearby. Once my foot was in the door, however, it became easier to ask for help and I soon found that everybody knows somebody who’s got what you need. Sometimes even at a good price! I bought most of my sweet cows that way; it really made me appreciate growing up in such a strong network of dairy farmers.
On top of stepping into a barn with milking infrastructure (pipeline system with six machines and a 1000 gallon bulk tank) I also inherited the tractors and silos of my Dad’s farming years. We bought one newish bucket tractor that modernizes our fleet by about 40 years but all in all I have everything I need to make crops (this year small square bales and corn for both silage and grain, maybe haylage and square bales next year?) We did buy a self-unloading wagon at a nearby auction for a great price. I bought most of things I needed this year from local farmers, stored feed and equipment alike.
Having infrastructure at my fingertips doesn’t stop me from looking to improve. I dream about new laneways, an underground watering system that would reach all my paddocks with frost free spigots at regular intervals, barn based electric in addition to my solar chargers, a loafing shed for winter time exercise and cow cleanliness.
I will be applying for EQIP funding next year and hopefully some of these dreams will be made possible through that. Today I am going to look at a few more cows because I am not quite making enough milk to float my brothers cheese business. I am going to try to purchase 6 or 10 more Jerseys and to do so I am applying for a micro-loan from FSA.
Looking back so far, I think money and feeling competent with money is the most overwhelming part of starting a business.
All the best from Chaseholm!