Owning A Milk Cow

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Owning A Milk Cow Empty Owning A Milk Cow

Post by Peppygal on March 18th 2014, 12:29 pm

Have a question for all of you who have experience owning a milk cow.  My family drinks 4L of milk a day and we go through a scary amount of yogurt, sour cream, whipping cream, coffee creamer...you get the idea.  Anyway, owning a milk cow has been on my mind a lot lately, but I'm worried about the thought of being completely tied down with one.  We love to go camping in the summer, and while it's not hard to get someone to check on chickens and pigs (I hope), asking someone to come to milk a cow twice a day is asking too much.  I've found online that it is possible to remove the calf for 12 hours, milk the cow, then put the calf back on for 12 hours, and then if you want to go away for a few days, just leave the calf on.  Others say you won't get enough milk and the cow won't let her milk down for you, she saves it for the calf.  Owning a milk cow is a big decision and I would like to make sure it's the right thing for my family.  Wouldn't be attempting this until next year.  Don't want to get too overwhelmed.  Thanks

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Post by niglefritz on March 18th 2014, 2:02 pm

Okay, this is one of my favorite subjects if you haven't seen that on the other threads by now. Smile

First of all, if you go through scary amounts of dairy products (like us), think of what that can save you in a year and what you could do with that. Also think of the bonus of the meat that you could get from the calf. That helps. We found that through dairy alone, that years ago already we would save well over $2,000. That was before prices went up and our family grew in size and number. You can keep one cow for way less than that and have some left over. They  pay for themselves very quickly.

Next, think of the health benefits. They are many...and this also could save you money in the long run by staying healthier.

This thought people have of being completely tied down if you have a cow is a popular myth. We hear that all the time from one side of the family. They are so very wrong. You are only as tied down as you wish to be, and we get all of the wonderful benefits that they will never experience because of that belief.

1. You can milk once a day...put the calf on and skip the evening milking. We did this until the cow weaned the calf at about 1 year of age. She is good eating, I tell you! If you lose your calf or something, you can still go to milking only once a day after a few weeks. She will give 3/4 of her full total (by total I mean if you milked 2ce/day).

2. Find a substitute milker (I prefer to have more than one to call on if possible) for times when you want to go further. You do want to teach them how you do things and observe that they actually do know what they say they know. If they don't know, you teach them and observe until you are confident in their skills. You don't want to come home to problems or dead/hurting animals and possibly a ruined friendship.

3. Sometimes you need to rethink your vacations. IF we go somewhere (we don't go far for other reasons and we like being at home), we plan on going when the cow is dry, like a good time before she might freshen.

4. Like you found out, you can leave that calf on the cow as well, but not during the beginning of her lactation. That would be asking for problems, as she would need to cut down a bit for that to work well...but we have done it.

5. It builds family ties. Immediate family ties. It is a good activity to go do together. Someone can put the cow in, someone can brush her down (they love that), someone can feed, someone can clean her udder & milk, someone can clean out the manure, etc...or just all hang around while one person does it all. It can be fun to do together. It teaches responsibility, promptness, caring for something, and so on. It can also help teach about life and death. It is a good thing for a family all around.

We like to give our cow a break and not have it constantly in lactation. We bought a second cow partly for this reason, and partly because a heavy milker can be a hard one to get bred, so with 2, we should always have real milk from one of them. We plan to spell them off.

I don't know what type of temperamental cows those people had (they all have their own personalities) or how they treated them in the first place, but we have never experienced that with our 3 purebred jerseys. You need to create a gentle working relationship with that cow. She would do fine. I have also never heard this from relatives who have always had milk cows. It is not the norm, put it that way. There are also gentle ways to encourage the milk to let down if she will not give.

Get a good book and find a good mentor. Remember that not all mentors are created equal, so take everything with a grain of salt and take what sounds the best for you and your situation. We have heard some strange ideas in our time already and some odd ways of doing things that really make no sense to us. As for the book, I have posted about it a few times already, and it is invaluable. It is called "The Family Cow" by Dirk van Loon. It is a small green book packed with all sorts of easy to read and reference very important information. Awesome book. Get it first, and learn it well. There is always the internet too, but I go to that (and to mentors) more for advice on disease and emergencies.

The only way that you will know if you can make it work is to try it yourself. Don't be afraid of it. Prove the naysaysers wrong.

What are you looking for, one that has high cream and milk? A Jersey has the highest of both. They generally are smaller and have the best conversion of feed to milk ratio, and often are very good natured. They do have small teats. A Brown Swiss has larger teats, and has a large milk output, however a bit less cream. Holsteins are bred for more milk, less cream, and can be a bit more ornery, but not always. Their feed to milk ratio is not as efficient as they have a larger body. These things and more you will be able to learn from the book.

I have to ask, have you ever hand-milked before? If not, I should let you know that you never pull teats. You "strip" or "squeeze" them. You do it at the same rate that the calf would suck...not super fast. It is best if you have someone show you how to do it, or you could get kicked a lot and have a cow that will have an attitude toward you. They don't forget all that easily.

If you need advice from choosing a good cow (what to look for), feeding, watering, & feeding at milking time, to calving and weaning, and equipment (pails and such) I would be happy to help. There is a lot to learn, but it isn't all that hard to do.
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Post by Peppygal on March 18th 2014, 3:55 pm

Thanks so much for all the info Niglefritz.  I will definitely get that book and start reading up.  I don't know of anyone in my area that milks cows, so I may rely heavily on your help when the time comes:)  I have never hand-milked before so there will be quite a learning curve there.  What about milking machines?  I've read a lot of good things about them.

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Post by niglefritz on March 18th 2014, 4:48 pm

If you hand milk, your hands will be very tired for the first while, and you will need to set aside a lot of time. Give yourself an hour or more. You will want to give up, but keep going. Eventually, you will get it down to 10 minutes or so. You need to build your strength up.

When we first started, we had no shelter. We put our cow's head & neck between two trees that were close together, put a board across so that she would not go through. We were fortunate that we had a third tree further towards her hip, and so we put a second board from the one tree at the front to this one near her hip. We both milked, each from opposite sides. lol You can also spell off and take turns. I like milking from the cow's right side, and that is usually how I saw & still see it done, but that is up to you and the cow.

I am sure it all was quite a sight. We figured that we had better get something in place for when it rained, and certainly before winter. I think that for a while we strung a tarp but we still got wet when the wind blew.

We have quite a few uniques stories about how we started up here (quite a few involving cows, especially our first one), but most of those are for another day. I have a good one about our first cow, my husband, and a weanling pig...running full out in that order. He took off after the pig, and next I saw him, he was running the other way...pig, him, & cow with bag just swinging. He heard the cow and could feel the breath on his neck, so stopped suddenly, yelled at the cow to STOP!  Mad (this avatar is the closest I could find) As soon as he did that, the cow stopped, he was stopped, and the pig stopped too...all instantly. Then he turned and took off after that pig, only to have the cow keep on going. It was the exact same scenario. Fortunately in the end the dog decided to help & caught the pig (no injuries) and we put it in something from which it could not escape. I only wish that I had had a video of it that day...

We have been told by some people who have had a milking machine for one cow and they said that it took more time to clean it than to just milk by hand. The less work you have to do, the better. I prefer to do less cleaning any day. We will never get one. Milking by hand is just better in our opinion. Someday you may have issues with that machine as well and you will still have to hand milk anyway.

You can get a separator if you want as well. We have three...a hand crank table top antique one from 1920-something and the other two med. & large plug in types. You can put parts of these in a dishwasher, by the way. We are just skimming the cream at this point. We need to get a seal for the old one and weld a part of the handle back on (it fell on someone's head...again...another day) find some hard to find parts for another and need to get the motor re-done on the last one.

Ask away, any time. Have fun researching!
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Post by ooptec on March 20th 2014, 4:22 pm

Twice a day, everyday, 365 a year is what I remember about milk cows

lolololololol
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Post by niglefritz on March 20th 2014, 10:16 pm

Ha! Good news, it does not need to be that way now... Smile We are a little wiser to these things... lol
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Post by Ballyrag on March 25th 2014, 2:14 am

Hey

Great post niglefritz I enjoyed reading it all , i would some day like to have a cow to milk , but for now my plan is a meat cow

Maybe some day i can pick your brain  Popcorn 

Thanks for the thread Peppygal good luck with your plans

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Post by Peppygal on February 22nd 2015, 12:29 pm

Well, I took the leap and bought a Jersey heifer. I got her bred and she is due to calve in July. I am so excited and I hope everything goes well since I have never owned a cow before. I've been doing lots of reading and I bought The Family Cow book that niglefritz recommended (and a couple of others). Hopefully I can maintain my enthusiasm next winter when its -40 and I'm heading out to milk a cow;)

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Post by niglefritz on February 22nd 2015, 2:20 pm

Woohoo! Great to hear! Good luck, and if you need anything...

In addition to mentoring advice, some previous knowledge & experience, we found that book very accurate and helpful.
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