Cow Boarding Program
There are many questions people have about our cow boarding program, please review our list of frequently asked questions in order to become more familiar with our program.
If you still have questions after reviewing this page please feel free to contact us and we'll help you work through everything.
WHY COW BOARDING?
In Virginia, it is illegal to buy and sell raw milk (as in unpasteurized, fresh-from-the-cow milk). But it is not illegal to drink fresh milk from the cow that you own! Think of it! Owning your own cow and boarding it at a local farm. You may visit your cow at any time. The farmer performs a service for you by feeding, caring for, and milking your cow. And you benefit by being able to utilize the milk.
WHAT IS THE COWBOARDING PROGRAM?
A young cow can produce about 25 gallons of milk per week. A gallon represents one part of the cow. Later, when the cow matures and has had 3 calves she can produce around 35 gallons of milk per week. At that time, 10 additional parts in the cow can be made available.
HOW LONG HAS THIS COW BOARDING PROJECT BEEN IN EXISTENCE?
The cow boarding program started on March 1st, 2001.
WHAT KIND OF A COW WILL I BE BUYING?
The cow in which you're buying a part is a purebred Jersey from Hedgebrook Farm in Winchester, Virginia. Jersey cows have the creamiest milk because their milk contains the highest butterfat content of any breed; this winter's milk measured 4.6 - 5.5 percent butterfat.
ARE THESE COWS GIVEN HORMONES?
No way! Never! Antibiotics are only used in life-threatening emergencies and never given as a preventive measure for illness (as many large dairies do).
WILL MY COW BE PASTURED?
Yes! These Virginia Jerseys are pastured on untreated grass 3/4 of the year (no pesticides or other treatments). In the winter your cow is fed hay. The cows are also given a vegetarian protein supplement (no cottonseed meal or soy) while they are being milked. This serves a dual purpose: it gives the cows extra incentive to come into the milking barn (they love it!) and it helps keep their milk production up to par.
IS MY COW TESTED FOR TUBERCULOSIS (TB) AND BRUCELLOSIS?
Yes! These cows are certified free of TB and Brucellosis. Once per year, in April, the cows are tested for the presence of TB and Brucellosis. In addition, the calves are vaccinated for Brucellosis; this covers them for the life of the animal.
WHERE WILL MY COW BE KEPT?
Your cow will be boarded at Hedgebrook Farm in Winchester, VA. As a Cowboarder you will pay a monthly boarding fee to the farmer. The farmer milks the cow for you, stores the milk, and feeds and cares for the cows. You will be asked to read and sign a boarding agreement with Hedgebrook Farm.
HOW DOES THE FARMER COLLECT AND STORE THE MILK?
The cows are milked by machine. The milk is pumped directly from the cow(s) into clean, gallon-sized glass jars. The jars are sealed with Stretch-Tite (plastic wrap) and the plastic lids are screwed on tight. The milk is stored in the glass jars in a cooler building where the temperature is maintained at an approximate temperature of 35 - 38 degrees F. year-round, where it remains until the milk is picked up or delivered.
DO I RECYCLE THE GLASS JARS?
Yes! After the milk in each jar is consumed, each cow boarder washes the jar (and any metal lids) in the dishwasher with a mild dishwashing detergent (like those that are eco-friendly and can be purchased at a place like Fresh Fields). Cascade and other leading brands are very harsh and the residue can get into the milk. Plastic lids are washed by hand in hot soapy water to kill germs and are dried thoroughly (never in the dishwasher - the plastic lids will warp). Check lids to be sure they are dry. If not, take a clean dish towel and wipe out any remaining drops of water. Once dry, place the lid on the jar for return.
You are responsible for returning the clean jars with lids every week. For delivery customers, place the clean jars/lids outside where your weekly delivery arrives. For pick-up customers, return the clean jars/lids to the farm where you pick-up your milk. This procedure is repeated each week to keep the jars in circulation.
IMPORTANT REMINDER: Failure to return your jars/lids each week will impact our ability to collect & deliver the milk in a timely fashion. If you fail to return your clean jars/lids each week don't be surprised when you don't get your milk. If you break your jars/lids please let us know, we can order more and you will charged for the replacement.
MAY I HAVE MY MILK DELIVERED?
Yes, you may! Hedgebrook Farm offers delivery to your Northern Virginia home. Call or e-mail for rates to your area. We'll discuss the delivery process a little further down the page.
WILL MY MILK BE HANDLED SAFELY?
Yes! Hedgebrook Farm is a working family farm that has been in operation since 1906. Hedgebrook is a third-generation Grade A Dairy Farm. As such, it is frequently and stringently inspected by the Virginia Department of Agriculture for the sanitation of the facilities, equipment, and surroundings. The farm is also a USDA-inspected facility. The milk is tested frequently for quality by the state. The dairy is clean and sanitary. Milk from the other cows in the herd is sold to a local creamery. The milking apparatus is cleaned thoroughly both before and after milking, two milkings per day. Hedgebrook Farm has a solid foundation in sanitary food handling and there has never been a problem with the quality of their milk "product."
HOW LONG IS MY COW BOARDING GOOD FOR?
Your part is good for the life of the cow. Basically, you own the cow until it dies. Then you make other arrangements. Of course, since you own the part you may sell it at any time. By the way, since the cowboarders own the cow(s), you are responsible for any unusual vet bills. Hedgebrook Farm takes care of most routine situations, however.
HOW LONG DOES A COW LIVE?
That depends on the cow. Hedgebrook Farm has had some cows live to be 14 to 16 years old, but this is unusual. In a high-stress dairy with a large herd, the cows may live 4-5 years. But Hedgebrook Farm is a small, low-stress dairy farm where the cow are humanely and lovingly cared for. Best guess is somewhere in between.
WHEN DOES A COW PRODUCE MILK?
A cow produces milk only after it's had a calf. Hedgebrook Farm makes sure cows are "refreshed" every year to ensure a constant supply of milk. The cow produces milk on a 305-day cycle, then is "dried up" for 60 days prior to the birth of the calf. This means for 60 days of the year your cow will not be producing any milk. One week last summer the cows went on strike and did not give milk. They were too hot!
CAN YOU GIVE ME SOME DAIRY TERMINOLOGY?
- Bull - male bovine;
- Steer - castrated bull;
- Heifer - female cow that has not yet had a calf;
- First Calf Heifer - a cow who is milking successfully, having had one calf;
- Second Calf Heifer - a cow that is in her second year of producing milk;
- Cow - female that is at least three years old;
- Aged Cow - a cow that is 6 years or older;
- "Fresh" Cow - one that has recently had her
calf and is producing milk.
WHAT ARE THE COSTS?
To purchase a part in a cow (one part is equivalent to one gallon of milk per week) you pay $80.00. This is a one-time cost.
After the above one-time costs, there is a boarding fee that goes to the Dairy Farm of $36 per part per month; that continues for as long as you own your part.
EXAMPLE -- COST FOR 1 PART
- One-time Fees: Purchase of 1 part x $80.00 = $ 80.00
- Monthly Boarding Fees 1 part x $36.00/month = $ 36.00
(Quarterly $36/month x 3 = $108.00)
SO WHAT IF I WANT TO PURCHASE 3 PARTS? MY FAMILY DRINKS ABOUT 3 GALLONS
OF MILK PER WEEK. HOW MUCH WILL THIS COST ME?
EXAMPLE -- COST FOR 3 PARTS
- One-time Fees: Purchase of 3 Parts x $80.00 per part =$240.00
- Monthly Boarding Fees 3 Parts x $36.00/month = $108.00
(Quarterly $108.00/month x 3 = $324.00)
HOW IS THE MONEY COLLECTED?
The boarding fees are collected quarterly.
Payments are due four times per year, on:
January 1st (for January , February, March)
April 1st (for April, May, June)
July 1st (for July, August, September)
October 1st (for October, November, December)
The monthly boarding fee(s) will be prorated, depending on when you purchase your part(s). Costs may be subject to increase.
CAN I GET MY MILK DELIVERED?
We do offer delivery to the Northern Virginia area only. The delivery fee ranges from $7-$10 weekly depending on the location. The areas of $7 are Herndon, Great Falls, and the $10 area are Alexandria, Sterling. The milk gets delivered directly to your door step weekly.
A cooler along with ice needs to be put out on the morning of delivery so there is someplace for the delivery driver to put the milk. The milk is typically delivered on Saturday & Thursday beginning in the afternoon & early evening and usually completed before midnight.
Payment is due monthly on the 14th. Each Cowboarding member is the employer of the driver, not Hedgebrook Farm. We just facilitate the check for the driver.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
You must promise never to buy or sell raw milk. You can trade or barter, but never sell it. Read and sign the boarding agreement with Hedgebrook Farm, and then write us a check. As soon as we receive your signed agreement and your check, you own the cow and you may begin picking up your delicious, nutritious, fresh milk!
HOW CAN I OBTAIN MORE INFORMATION?
Call Shannon Triplett at 1 (540) 323-0919.