Herdshare: strategies for sustenance

| Animal Systems | comments | Author :


The herdshare arrangement is one in which you own part of an animal or herd, along with others who hold shares in that animal or herd. Say, a cow, for example.

As a part owner, you are entitled to part of the outputs of said animal. Including things like its milk. And because it’s technically your cow, you can obtain and use that milk in its raw form.

Which doesn’t mean the cow has to actually live with you. You can hire a farmer to take care of your cow. And milk your cow. And bring your cow’s products to you. It’s all a relatively simple arrangement. 


Though this might all sound a bit sneaky, it’s actually not. Racehorses are owned by multiple owners all the time. So are prime bulls. So why not cows?

Why not chickens, for that matter? You could buy 10 broiler day-old chicks and get someone  (probably, again, a farmer would be best) to raise them on pasture for you.

When the broilers were fully grown, the farmer could (as a favor to a friend, no need to pay them) even help you slaughter them at a simple on-farm dispatching setup. And then you can take your dressed birds home, pop them in the freezer, and be self sufficient in chicken for months.

After all, they’re your chickens. You can pay the farmer to do the necessary stuff, if you see fit. You bought the chicken, you paid someone to raise them. And at the end of the chicken’s lives, its just a case of friends having a dispatch day. Nothing illegal about that.

But back to sharing cows, and their outputs. There’s currently some questions how raw or not raw those outputs should be, before they get to human’s homes to be used for baths. As I’m sure you’re aware, it is currently illegal to sell raw cows milk for human consumption in all states of Australia.

The Raw Milk wars rage all around us, especially in the USA where another round of crackdowns have seen organic raw milk dairies raided. The Raw Milk debate has many branches, but at it’s core, I suspect it’s about scale, and about accountability, and about control.

Sounds like the rest of our food system debates.

Which brings us back to Herdshare models. In a herdshare model, a bunch of people get together and buy a cow, or cows. You hire a farmer to tend and agist your cows, and to milk your cows. And deliver the milk from your cows to you. Ta da! Fresh milk for your family, with no selling of it, as a discrete product, involved.

Considering how much milk our society buys, i find it incredible that there are not more of these setups in Australia. There’s a few around, with websites. Probably many more, without websites. And no doubt many less formal relationships.

In the Mudgee valley where we live, there is no longer an operational dairy in sight, and I couldn’t even tell you where the closest one was. Down in the Sydney basin, most likely. Which means no local cows milk for sale, raw or otherwise. At all. Not even vaguely. Hmm.

On our way to town we drive past a small de-commissioned dairy which stopped milking about 10 years ago, probably due to the deregulation of milk prices that sent so many small and large dairies under. Could a herdshare re-open it, if the price was right for the farmer involved? It’s a thought.

Could I find 80 families locally who were passionate about access to fresh local raw milk from their own cows? You know, I bet you I could. Just saying.

Herdshare could be a viable idea for your local food system toolbox. Maybe you should look into it.

Current herdshare models in Australia

Herdshare resources (mostly US based)

>> More posts on small farm animal systems here…

See the comments

Related Posts

You Can Farm by Joel Salatin: Book Review

You Can Farm is probably the Joel Salatin book that kicked off mo . .
Read More

Happy Fish, Happy Harvest: Matt’s Aquaponics Adventures

What do you get when you cross a sustainable fisheries bloke with . .
Read More

Visiting: Peter’s off-grid Homestead, Kangaroo Valley

It’s many a city dweller’s long-lived dream. Skip out on the . .
Read More


39 responses to “Herdshare: strategies for sustenance

  1. It’s a fabulous idea! I can still remember wandering down the track to the nearby dairy, and getting a flagon of milk fresh from the vat…..and later, milking my own goats. Nothing beats that.
    Creativeness of this type is what will overcome the craziness of the politicians.

    1. We drank raw milk all the time as kids. It was delivered to the local shop in big stainless steel containers and you took a lidded billy and the milk was ladled into it. Beautiful. We’d be so happy to be able to herd share – just need a2 certified herd. 🙂

  2. And then this happens:


    An Adelaide herdshare was raided and milk confiscated, and the farmer is facing vary large fines. Even if what he’s doing is completely legal, he’s going to have massive legal costs to prove it.

    I can see why there aren’t that many farmers willing to step up and offer herdshares.

    We need some better, more supportive legislation for informed consumers who want to enter into these types of arrangements.

    1. Yep, it’s a struggle. But there are folks and farmers successfully doing it, both with formal and informal arrangements.

      Bottom up action can greatly influence top down thinking, and legislation. I don’t see the value in sitting on our hands till our government (who have proven themselves useless in protecting or valuing dairy farmers thus far, as seen in the duopoly’s milk price fiasco) magically implements useful change in this arena. If people are doing it successfully and safely, we have precedents. If not, it’s back to the supermarket for all of us.

  3. In a version of a mini herdshare, my neighbours and I are going to start with a couple of community cows on my land and see how that goes. None of us have the time to look after a cow on our own but together we figure it will be manageable. We’re splitting all costs, did a couple of weekend working bees to get the fencing and accommodation sorted, and Lola the Jersey and her two weaned paddock buddies arrive on Thursday. We bought them from a Victorian farmer who is selling her herd because she can’t make a living with milk prices as they are. It will be an interesting experiment…

  4. I have a friend who “rents” two goats. He lives miles from the bush so he only gets there once a fortnight to pick up his milk which they freeze for him. He also gets cheese and yoghurt made for him. If it works with goats….

  5. We are part of a Herdshare here in Canberra, but unfortunately, my son and I went back to drinking goats milk anyway (raw cows milk wasn’t any more tolerable than processed cows milk), so my husband drinks a lot of raw milk at the moment, until we find time to make cheese & yoghurt. The Herdshare concept and the quality of the raw milk is fantastic, but the one we became involved with was starting up from scratch, so is trying to overcome logistics, such as securing a suitable depot with coolroom, organising a refrigerated courier to bring the milk twice a week from two hours away, buying stainless steel milk pails for the ‘milk pail rental’ option, and in general, the owner is more farmer than business person. But anyways, worthwhile looking into, esp. for those keen to make their own dairy products too.

    Jacqua Herdshare, near Goulburn, with deliveries to Canberra & Southern Highlands, but I believe they were arranging deliveries to Sydney too. [email protected] https://www.facebook.com/groups/527644367248060/?fref=ts

    An interesting article to consider: http://waywardspark.com/raw-vs-pasteurized/

  6. I was talking to someone in a health shop in Orange (We drive there once a month or so to pick up a fruit and veg box) who was talking about organising a herd share. At the moment we’re drinking Country Valley milk and enjoying it but I’d be interested in being part of a Herdshare.

  7. Love this idea, and since I live across the street from a small dairy farm, it’s one I’ve thought of often. I’d love to go over with a liter bottle once or twice a week… They’re selling buttermilk, hard cheese and ricotta at the local farmers market, but I couldn’t convince the farm manager to let me come over with my empty bottle. There’s another dairy, about 5 miles away, that sells raw milk by the half gallon and I was buying it for a while, but it got to be inconvenient. And instead of that mornings’ milk, I was getting milk that was two or three days old; with my consumption rate, raw milk doesn’t last long enough unless I get it same-day-milked). Still, I feel lucky to have such great sources so close!

  8. I’m a shareholder in the Adelaide one mentioned above. The Govt is going to do its best to close it down, and the poor farmer doing his best to provide a fresh, raw product to his shareholders is facing a legal battle to keep doing something he has been doing for the past 5 years or so. He was ‘raided’ by Biosecurity and the police – no-one had even bothered to phone him to talk about his operation before this, from what I understand they tried to bully him into signing documents which would have made it illegal for him to continue doing what he’s doing. Thankfully he didn’t, and so far we have been to continue collecting our milk.

    I’ve been writing lots of letters, and had an email from the local Greens MLC today that he is prepared to try to introduce legislation to make it ‘more friendly’ for these types of arrangements to be set up. As you suggest, there are lots of different options for share-holdings, not just milk-based!

    We have a shareholders meeting tomorrow night – I’m sure the Minister who is causing this fuss won’t be prepared to turn up to discuss her concerns though – she just might them being refuted!

    1. Hi Di, as per my post at the bottom of the thread, I’d be happy to help out by getting up a petition on Change.org or some other site in support of the farmer and the other shareholders. If you get in touch via Facebook, I can get started.

  9. This bullying thing by governments really gets up my nose…

    Sadly from what I’m seeing, most of this lunacy from higher authorities is totally / only really about bureaucratic (ego) control or simply because of the fear that various taxes may be avoided due to the structure of how things operate. Not evaded, just avoided.

    My thing is this. How can any government stop a legal, reputable business from trading? Isn’t it a violation of free trade?

    Herdshare “bullying” is symptomatic of the current Australian governments practice with primary producers. It’s just the same in many ways as not legalising non narcotic hemp for human food consumption. Australia is one of the few countries in the world that will not make it available to the people. Sad really, it’s such a wonderful food item.

    LoL, I eat it every day here in the UK. My health has improved which has been verified with facts from my doctor. It has improved so much since we have started eating these kinds of wholesome foods; Hemp, Chia, Linseed with raw oats and honey produced by local, bee friendly bee keepers, who cold press and use no heat to process it.

    Organic foods produced 100% with care and attention have helped heal my body.

    The other crazy thing, which is robbing Aussie farmers, is that the industrial hemp crops are brilliant to grow as they don’t need any pesticides or much water/fertiliser. They are returning on average up to $1500.00/acre in Oz in trials. Sadly most of it is exported for beauty products, bio degradable plastics, food products for animals and clothing too. Oh and it’s impossible to get stoned on this form of the plant. Just like it’s impossible to get stoned from eating normal shitake, oyster or normal chestnut mushrooms

    I spoke to a fellow here who has no vested interest in any hemp business in OZ and he told me that he found out that it’s all down to the USA holding certain trade agreements with/over the OZ goverment. If Oz legalises it then it puts pressure on the USA to do so too, so the Oz government have been told to stall legalising it or else the US will go elsewhere for certain things it imports from Australia. People still find ways to bring it in though. 🙂

    This might sound a far fetched… But living in the EU Zone right now, I see first hand what heavy handed local governments and higher regional government threats and laws do to basic human rights. Especially in the farming community. Most time these kinds of legislation kill farming, why… Store bought, industrial farmed foods and drinks etc are easily monitored via these types of farms/farming and also more easily taxed. I am not a conspiracy theorist, I’m just living it.

    I guess I am try to encourage one and all to stay the course… Irish dairy is on it’s butt too. Sad really. BUT… There is however a grass roots rising in producing wonderful cheeses as raw milk products in Ireland that are starting to win favour across parts of Europe where raw milk cheese is allowed, EG Parmesan, is a raw milk cheese here. I watched a program about this whole raw milk thing on TV just last week, it was both sad and super inspiring.

    Sadly, the farmers right to survive is eroded and attacked daily. They are being attacked by E.U legislation all the time but they are starting to move forward too. They are really a resilient lot the Irish.

    This all being said. I totally totally love the idea of a herdshare business in Oz. Thanks for sharing about it. I did not know it existed. The one in Northern NSW / Southern QLD looks really professional and fabulous.

    I am with you Kirsten 100%. If everyone stands up for what is pragmatic and right, taking the solidarity line, then others will hear and join, some, will add their support but not join a herdshare, some in government will resist, but change will always be forced by consistent sensible people power, history proves it.

    No one should be able to legislate what we eat, unless it’s conclusively harmful. Then, we wouldn’t eat it any way. Common sense really.

    Change is slow but worth while.

    I am also really looking forward to coming and doing my PDC with you guys at Milkwood in 2014 after we come home. 🙂 My wife. Colleen, and I watched a YT video with you and Tim Malfroy pressing the honey on the weekend… It was great.

  10. I’m a stallholder at the same organic market in Adelaide (Organic Corner Store) that has been a collection point for the farm raided recently. To me it smacks of the kind of witch-hunting that has recently gone on around here in regards to home birth – as if the public couldn’t make their own informed decisions on health matters and have the right to free choice. Well, babies have gone on being born at home and I dare say people will go on drinking raw milk for much the same reasons – but it will take more determination than ever to exercise that choice. How do our health institutions expect the public to take responsibility for their health while consistently denying us the opportunity to do so?

  11. Just re-reading my comment above, I hope I didn’t come across as negative on the whole idea! I love it, and am keeping the feelers out for a herdshare in my area (I live in “the birthplace of co-operative dairy production in Australia” – Jamberoo).

    I hope the Adelaide farmer accepts the legal challenge, takes it to court, and wins. Wouldn’t that be a precedent!

    I just can’t accept the government’s health risk arguments on raw milk. If they were genuinely concerned about health risks they’d start with tobacco, not milk. It’s about money, centralisation, and the lobbying of the few large milk companies to lock out local competition.

    1. I’d say our herd share (see dixibelle’s post) is almost closer to you than me Darren – and shoots past you for Sydney deliveries. I think the more people (especially people who are likely to be vocal) who are supporting herd share, the less government bodies are likely to rely on farmers just giving up in the face of being swamped by the bureaucratic and legal systems – that’s what’s happening here in my opinion. I’d say they (govt depts) know full well what’s happening in Adelaide is legal, they’re just relying on the group not having the resources to stick it out if they’re tied up for long enough, and the problem going away.

  12. Great post. We drink raw milk every day from our neighboring dairy farmer, including our kids. When we are at a farmers market we also have access to bsth milk from another producer and nothing beats that raw milk in taste and wholesome goodness. The raw milk argument drives me crazy and of course it’s all about the big milk processing companies- not health!
    I can’t see it would be hard to set up at all, nor would it take huge overheads if it was just going to be bottled and delivered or picked up directly by the herd sharer. 80 families is so doable and a small herd could cover it. There are small dairy families where I’m from down on the Murray River talking about setting up a herd share soon and god I hope they do it.
    What I love about it too is that it’s not just milk, how perfect would it be to see herd share pork, lamb, beef, chooks, goats- whatever- so that animals could be slaughtered right there in the paddock instead of being whisked away to an abattoir.
    Small communities building a secure food system is where it has to start. If a small community can feed itself pure and local food then the same principals ripple out to neighboring areas and so on, right?? Then the big guns have to listen because there isn’t just a few people making change, it’s thousands. It’s really sad to hear producers getting into trouble for selling what they simply strive to produce. We all want to provide the best food we can, the healthiest food we can in the best possible way. I hope one day very very soon I hear about a herd share in Mudgee!

  13. Put my name down Kirsten, you will need to purchase vats as the dairy sold them when they closed down, we bought two of them for wine making. Great idea love it! Mudgee needs its own milk again, already started on the chicken front.

  14. Re the nearest dairy farm to Mudgee, Kirsten, there’s a dairy herd out along Queen’s Pinch Road – at least there was last year – and also some around Baerami Creek which is at the end of the Bylong/top of the Hunter.

    Regarding legal challenges to herdshare schemes the answer is pretty simple, start up a fighting fund, get up a petition on Change.org or one of the other online petition sites, see if GetUp will get involved etc. If people really care about this sort of thing then we need to fight for it. Di (another commenter) if you get in touch via Facebook I’ll get the petition rolling.

  15. Found this blog recently when googling raw milk herdshares.
    We have been developing our dual purpose herd (bred to produce both milk and beef) to eventually be a complete A2A2 herd. We have been DNA testing for a few years now and only using A2A2 bulls. We are nearly there and I feel we are far enough advanced to now be able to start milking these A2A2 cows. We are over 100 in number. Our preference would be to supply raw milk because of the advantages that offers and if herdshare is the only way that those wanting raw milk can get it then we are interested. I have been looking at it for a while and have been delaying because of the FSANZ inquiry regarding raw milk currently happening. I’m not sure it will include raw drinking milk but rather raw milk for raw milk products such as cheese and it seems it will not finalise until at least next year.
    We are located in central NSW between Gilgandra and Mendooran. That is aprox 130km NW of Mudgee and 90km north of Dubbo.
    We are not established as a dairy but are looking to establish a small low cost set up suitable for herdshare.
    If there is enough demand from different areas, delivery could be arranged.
    We could provide both milk and beef from this A2A2 herd.
    I’m interested to hear what people think.
    Max Dench.

  16. I got so sick of all the scaremongering and messing about with the milk supply that I now have two Jersey girls and milk every morning, so we’re self sufficient in all dairy products now. If I was allowed to sell my milk, there’s be a huge local demand, mostly from folks who grew up drinking raw milk on local (now defunct) dairy farms and don’t see what the fuss is about. The biggest and most lethal food poisoning scares in our recent history came from municipal water, registered and inspected salami factory and fully accredited peanut butter factory. This whole idiocy is about keeping small producers out of the market and not about health at all.

    1. Cassie there’s some pretty successful cowshares (multiple families owning 1 or 2 cows together, someone gets paid to milk and agist them, everyone gets their own milk) about in NSW. Just saying, incase you’d like to start one 🙂

      1. The NSW Govt must be more brains than the SA Govt where they are still pursuing our one cowshare program through the courts, despite Mark the dairyman having won the first two cases. Apparently their latest attempt will be based on him being deemed to be processing milk because he puts it in the fridge!

  17. I posted above that we were interested in starting a herdshare after Kirsten had said that there would be a lot of interest from people wanting raw milk.
    Not one response from anyone.
    We are enjoying our raw A2 milk and all the products we are making from it. We are having yogurt, kefir, custard and of course the straight milk, all going great.

    1. Hi max, not sure asking our blog if anyone was interested would be the best way to go about it – i would think (given that direct proximity to the cow is a large factor in the herdshare and cowshare models) that a highly localised approach like word of mouth, putting up a sign in the local corner shop, or a small notice in the local paper, would be far more effective than asking this blog’s readers? – just my perspective.

      Glad you’ve got so much milky goodness!

  18. Hi Kirsten. I posted on your blog after reading that you wanted someone to start a herdshare dairy in the Mudgee area. You posted that you would be able to find at least 80 interested people around Mudgee who would be interested to participate in a herdshare. Whilst we are not exactly in Mudgee, we are not very far away. There have also been many others post on your blog of their desire for raw milk from a herdshare.
    So I thought it would be a good starting place to talk with interested people before we got started so as to get things right, but as I said above, not a word from anyone. We can only put it out there.

    1. Hi Max – well, you know, I rekon a well-organised herdshare would get some serious traction in Mudgee, if you were up for it – I can put you in touch with the Mudgee co-oppers if you like?

      I was speaking above in the context of if a herdshare were to be available in the mudgee region, I do think there would be a big uptake, especially if someone pushed it.

      1. Hi Kirsten.
        I reckon I’m up for it and it would be good if you could put me in touch with the Mudgee co-oppers.
        My phone number for contact is 68861238.
        Thanks Max.

  19. Hey guys ! I’m based in the parramatta area if sydney and I have a dear friend of mine living in Kandos. We would love to be apart of the herdshare please if someone could email me in regards that would be fantastic

Leave a Reply