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Connecting with local farms is a great way to get wholesale beef, pork, and chicken prices. Access to bulk quantities of meat from farmers that you have a relationship with is way better than buying it from a local warehouse store! Plus, you can also get dairy products like raw milk from cows or goats. Most people know that you go to a farmers market or CSA for vegetables, honey, or even fresh baked goods. However, far fewer know that you can herdshare and buy a percentage of livestock and their products.
But what is a herdshare?
Herdshares are agreements between a farmer and ‘shareholders’ or ‘owners.’ This agreement gives shareowners the right to milk, meat, and other profits or products in proportion to their ‘ownership’ or share. They are also called farm or dairy shares. Some farmers may also make their herdshares specific to the type of livestock. These shares are known as cowshares, goatshares, or sheepshares. You receive a portion of the products by paying for your share.
How does it work
A herdshare works by allowing you to purchase all or a portion of an animal. You enter into a contract with the farmer. They feed and board the animal. The farmer will also do any milking or handle butchering. You are then able to take whatever portion of the product is your share because you own it.
Important: You are NOT paying the farmer for the product: i.e., milk, cheese, beef. You are paying for their cost and labor in boarding your animal portion and whatever processing is required.
Herdshares protect the farmer if you get sick from raw milk because you don’t buy the milk. It’s your milk. You pay the farmer for the labor of caring for and milking the animal, feed costs, and the cost of the processing into bottles, cans, or jugs.
If you are interested in herdsharing, you need to understand that you will pay for your share, room, and board for your animal or animal portion. In return, you will receive roughly a half-gallon of goat or sheep milk a week or a gallon of cow milk. During certain times of the year, you will also find that this amount increases or decreases. Look for farmers that have good, solid information and make a point of informing their shareholders about things like an increase in milk during spring and things like that.
If you live in a more rural area, you may see posts on social media from cattle or pig farmers offering a whole, half, or even quarter animal for a certain price. These are a type of herdshare – one that gives you a wholesale price on the butchered product. A herdshare of this kind asks that you pay upfront, per pound, on the ‘hanging weight’ of the slaughtered animal. Depending on how much you purchase, you will receive a certain number of cuts of meat.
Hanging Weight: The weight of an animal before it is butchered but after it is processed and the head, skin, and organs are removed.
For example, if you purchase a:
- Whole Cow – All cuts of meat
- Half Cow – About 220 pounds of beef that will include ground beef, steaks, ribs, roasts, brisket, tenderloin, and beef bones.
- Quarter Cow – About 110 pounds of beef that will include ground beef, stew beef, roasts, and steaks
If you are a farmer and choose to do a herd share, you are allowing people to purchase an animal or part of an animal over a certain period of time. Your share-owners buy their portion of the animal, and if they are buying dairy shares, they are also paying for feed and maintenance.
For more info on Herdshares and Cowshares, check out these links: